Dashed hopes for D.C. voting rights

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Post asked for reactions to the news that Congress will not take up the D.C. Voting Rights Act this term.

TOM DAVIS

Former U.S. representative from Virginia; president of the Republican Main Street Partnership

Congress's inability to pass the D.C. voting rights legislation, even though strong majorities exist in both houses, is disappointing. A "poison pill" amendment on D.C. gun laws added in the Senate could not be avoided in the House. Whether this speaks to the strength of the gun lobby, dysfunctional legislative rules, indecisive leadership on the city's part or half-committed congressional leadership, the result is the same.

This bill could still be resurrected by attaching it to another bill, addressing it in a lame-duck session or strong-arming it through. It is clear, however, that after this Congress adjourns, the D.C. Voting Rights Act will go into a deep sleep. It is said that victory has a thousand fathers and that defeat is an orphan. All the finger-pointing in the world will not resuscitate this bill. If the city and congressional leaders are serious about this issue, now is the time to stop the speechifying and come together with a common strategy to proceed.

MARY C. CHEH (Ward 3)

Democratic member of the D.C. Council

All District residents should be greatly relieved that Congress is not moving forward with a voting rights bill that included a dangerous and deeply offensive amendment. The gun lobby and its allies would have forced the District to give up its gun safety legislation and prohibit us from enacting future gun legislation in return for a vote in the House of Representatives. It was far too high a price.

The irony of all this is that we are seeking a vote in the House to have control over our own civic life. Yet accepting the disgusting gun deal would have required sacrificing our autonomy and our ability to protect D.C. residents' health and safety. Moreover, the voting rights legislation could be struck down as unconstitutional, but a clause in the bill would have ensured the gun amendment would remain in effect.

I fervently hope that the District will gain voting representation in our national legislature. Although the narrow opportunity to gain a voting member of Congress appears to have closed this session, I am confident that another opportunity will present itself. Our cause is just. But we won't sacrifice our basic principles, our dignity or our safety.

ILIR ZHERKA

Executive director of D.C. Vote


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