After five hours of a jampacked legislative day on the floor of the California senate, the members are well into their fidget-huddle-and-stroll routines when big Bill Greene, point-man for a hot potato called Assembly Joint Resolution No. 4, reaches into his desk drawer for a black, loose-leaf notebook that he has been keeping -- uncracked -- for the occasion.
The book is a made-to-order, fingertip guide to sponsorship of a measure to ratify the District of Columbia voting rights amendment. Its number is about to be called by the reading clerk. A quick flip of the notebook tabs, a glance back at the little public gallery just off the floor, and the senator is on his feet, heading for a man seated in the second row.
"Looks like we may be going after all," Greene announces in what for him is a whisper but that booms out for a good 10 paces in all directions. "How do we look?" The man stares for the umpteenth time at a dog-eared manila roll-call tally card and shakes his head in the negative: "Much as I hate to say it, we'd beter hold off again. Not everybody is here."
Dick Clark does hate to say it. He is the polished lobbyist, author of Greene's handy little guide and chairman of Self-Determination for D.C., the coalition of more than 50 national and D.C. organizatoins that carried the congressional representation amendment through the U.S. House and Senate. This is his fourth trip out here and there's still no bacon to bring home. With nine states down and 29 to go, California is key.
But Clark can count, and he needs 21 votes from among 39 state senators (there's one vacancy) to pull the measure through now that it has passed the lower house, the California Assembly.
That successfull campaign was due in no small part to an all-out effort by the respected assembly member Maxine Waters. She sold the amendment to her colleagues as "an equity issue," a matter of ending second-class citizenship for Americans who live in the nation's capital.
"Blacks and females know what i'm talking about," she notes. "Others have just heard bits and pieces and need to hear the whole story." What she doesn't say is that those others knew darn well that she is an effective whip in the assembly, and that she had made it clear she really cared about that vote.
Not only has Waters been lending precious office space to Clark, who is on a shoestring budget for this series of aborted missions. She is still working with him on possible ways to nail down those last two or three votes in the senate. Both Waters and Greene are only too aware that in the senate, as one supporter here put it, "nobody gives damn about this one till it comes up. It's not exactly a matter of personal survival -- just lots of rhetoric and a vague sense of the issue."
A check of Clark's own carefully prepared notebook bears this out. Senators who either oppose the amendment or aren't sure about it have rattled off a list of concerns to members of a California pro-amendment coalition that includes the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, the Council of Churches, the Democratic State Committee, the American Jewish democratic State Committee, the American Jewish Committee, labor unions, the NAACP and the Urban League.
Washington is a "company town," writes one senator, which means "residents have a vested interest in promoting federal spending, which would be channeled into the District" at a time when California is cutting back its spending.
One of Clark's ready-reference pagesin his packets for Greene and the other senators who have agreed to speak for the amendment cites testimony at a U.S. Senate hearings noting that of the total of federal jobs, California has 12.1 percent -- and the District 5.4 percent. Texas is at 7.2 percent and Virginia at 6 percent. The sheet also notes that the District has more non-governmental employees than 14 states.
A longer reach from one senator is the protest that since the District is "overwhelmingly Democratic" -- and since in California "we alternate between electing Democratic and Republican representatives" -- it wouldn't be long before the District would be getting seniority over California in the U.S. House. Besides, the District of Columbia is a city, and if it gets representation, other large cities will want U.S. senators of their own. But there is no other jurisdiction in the country, the briefing sheets point out, that is not already represented by two senators and at least one representative.
Several state senators claim that most of their constituent mail opposes the D.C. amendment. But they'd be hard-pressed to prove that it's really on the tips of all the tongues back home.
Now, after another head count that delayed consideration once again last week, the vote is off at least until after next Tuesday's primaries. Then Clark will fly back here for another go, and at this point, it's down to some hard-nosed bargaining for those last votes
In Maryland, where the vote was close, the decisive ayes came in exchange for some votes against a public campaign-financing bill. Here, some other trades are in the winds. Says Clark: "You go as far as you can on the merits, and then you look for other options to go over the top."