D.C. Vote Bill Backers Optimistic That Gun Amendment Will Be Stripped

The amendment to lift the District's gun laws is
The amendment to lift the District's gun laws is "inappropriate," says House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.). (Susan Walsh - AP)
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By Mary Beth Sheridan and Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, February 28, 2009

Supporters of the D.C. vote bill expressed optimism yesterday that the legislation would be stripped of an amendment that would turn the nation's capital into one of the easiest places in America to own a gun.

Senate Republicans added the gun amendment to the D.C. vote bill just before it was approved Thursday by the chamber. D.C. officials call the measure a public-safety threat.

The House is expected to pass its version of the bill next week without any gun language. The differences between the bills will have to be hashed out in a conference between the chambers.

"That's why you have conferences. I'm sure there will be an effort to fix this," said Tom Davis, the former Republican congressman from Virginia who was the original architect of the bill. He said the legislation appeared to have enough support to pass without the gun amendment attached.

The House vote, expected Wednesday, could mark the first time in three decades that a D.C. voting-rights bill cleared both chambers. The measure would expand the House by two seats: one for the District and another for the next state due to receive an additional representative based on population. That would go to Republican-leaning Utah for the next few years, offsetting the Democratic gain from the District.

President Obama has indicated that he will sign the bill. It is widely expected to face a court challenge, however.

Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, said he considered the gun amendment "disappointing, but not fatal." He spoke yesterday after he and other members of D.C. vote advocacy groups met with House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), a supporter of the bill.

"Certainly the leadership in both the House and Senate is committed to getting a D.C. voting rights bill, and getting a bill without a gun amendment, if possible," Henderson said. He added that his group is urging legislators to pass the bill without the gun language.

Hoyer branded the gun amendment "inappropriate and wrong," telling the Politics Program on WTOP (103.5 FM): "I hope it won't be in the final product."

What could complicate negotiations on the gun amendment is the strong support it received in the Senate. It passed 62 to 36, winning one more vote than the D.C. vote bill. Democrats from pro-gun states such as Virginia supported the measure, as did most Republicans.

Senate staff will have to "feel out how hard people want to push on this" gun issue in the negotiations, said one aide on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which handled the bill in the Senate.

"There's a lot of behind-the-scenes things that could happen," said the aide, who was not authorized to comment on the record.

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