The D.C. Republican Committee will vote next Wednesday on a proposal to withdraw its support from the voting rights amendment, an action that could further cripple the faltering nationwide ratification drive.
Even if the resolution fails, its mere introduction is likely to exacerbate the partisan splite that has developed over the proposed constitutional amendment to give the District two senators and one or two representatives.
Of the six state legislatures that have ratified the amendment-New Jersey, Ohio, Michigan, Minnoestoa, Massachusetts and Connecticut-Democrats control both houses in all but Minnesota, where the House is evenly split. Conversely, Republicans control both houses in six of the 10 legislatures that have rejected ratification.
The resolution of rejection will be offered by lawyer Henry A. Berliner Jr., who has headed the city's delegation to the last two GOP national conventions. Berliner said 26 of the 77 members of the central committee have agreed in writing to cosponsor his resolution, which he said has a "very good" chance of being approved.
Republican Party Chairman Paul Hays, who has been active in the ratification drive, will lead the opposition. Hays said 29 other committee members have promised to voite against the resolution "if they attend" the special meeting of the committee at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the City Council chamber.
D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy, a Democrat, the city's nonvoting representative in the House and the most visible leader of the amendment drive, called the resolution "an internal matter [of the Republican party] on which normally I would have no comment. But I hope the committee will be guided by what is in the best interests of the citizens of the city."
Richard W. Clark, the Common Cause lobbyist who is executive coordinator of the Ratification Campaign Committee, said "It is most unfortunate that the amendment has been caught in a power struggle" within the local Republican Party.
Clark predicted, "Opponents of ratification will seize on this. They would be foolhardy not to."
Elena Hess, executive director of Self-Determination for D.C., said, "We may be able to win despite how much publicity this gets," she said.
In an interview, Berliner did not disagree with suggestions that the resolution may be linked to ideological differences within the party, and to how committee members are lining up behind various Republican candidates for president in 1980.
Three cosponsors of the resolution, Dr. William H. Cooper, Fred L. Dixon and Michael Douo Gill, like Berliner, supported former Texas governor John Connally at the 1976 GOP convention. Three others, John W. Gill, Phillip A. Guarino and Mrs. Andreas Ronhovde, backed former California governor, Ronald Reagan.
Berliner said that of all the announced GOP presidential candidates only Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee is on record as a supporter of the amendment.
"If anyone other than Baker is nomination," Berliner said, support of the amendment "would be a point of friction" between the nominee and the local committee.
In a letter to Hays, Berliner said he has "personally supported every major piece of home rule legislation to date," but said he opposes the amendment for five reasons.
"The amendment is bad for the Republican Party. . .does not have the support of our fellow citizens in the states. . .and has been advanced in a hurried, haphazard and politicized manner," he wrote. Further, "representation in the Senate is historically reserved to the states. . .and the District doesn't have the characteristics of a state even now."
Taking aim at Fauntroy, Berliner said, "Our Democratic representative has been off in the first weeks of legislative sessions around the country, speaking, promoting, making media appearances, urging hurried approval and bypassing traditional legislative prerogatives and procedures. It has been unseemly and we should disassociate ourselves from this partisan effort regardless of our position on the amendment itself."
Fauntroy's role in the ratification campaign has been the topic of controversy even among supporters of the amendment.
Two parallel organizations now exist in support of the amendment, and the selection of Anthony J. Thompson, a Republican lawyer, as exective director of the newer group, the D.C. Voting Rights Services Corp., has been interpreted by many as an attempt by Fauntroy to bring bipartisan support to the campaign.
But the selection of Thompson, who lives in Frederick County, Md., and has not been active in party affairs, may have backfired. One District Republican leader dismissed Thompson as "Fauntroy's token Republican."
Berliner said that if his resolution passes on Wednesday, he then will propose a resolution in support of voting representation for the District in the House only.
Hays, the Republican bill clerk in the U.S. House, said he agreed with of Berliner's complaints about the ratification drive, but said the existing proposal is "the only effective and practical solution available."
District Republicans "have a long record of support" for full voting representation, Hays said, citing results of ballot questions in 1960, 1964 and 1968 in which they overwhelmingly endorsed the idea, most recently by a vote of 11,981 to 2,868.
Hays conceded that "if an election were held today, two more Democrats would go to the Senate and one more to the House." But Republicans in the District, who won 28 percent of the vote in last November's mayoral election, should be looking ahead, Hays wrote, "building a party organization" that some day would result in election victories.