Thursday, February 26, 2009

S.160 'The DC Voting Rights Act' passes in the Senate!

The Senate today voted to give the citizens of the District Of Columbia a vote in the House Of Representatives. The District is currently represented in the House by delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who serves as a non-voting member.

Summary of S.160 (DC Voting Rights Act)
(Sec. 2) Considers the District of Columbia a congressional district for purposes of representation in the House of Representatives. Declares that the District shall not be considered a state for purposes of representation in the Senate. Applies to the District in the same manner as it applies to a state the federal law providing for the fifteenth and subsequent decennial censuses and for apportionment of Representatives in Congress. Limits the District to one Member under any reapportionment of Members. Modifies the formula regarding the number of presidential electors to subject it to the 23rd amendment to the Constitution in the case of the District.
(Sec. 3) Increases membership of the House from 435 to 437 Members. Provides for a reapportionment of Members resulting from such increase. Requires:
(1) the President to submit to Congress a revised version of the most recent statement of such apportionment reflecting that the District of Columbia is entitled to one Representative and identifying Utah as the other state entitled to one Representative; and
(2) the Clerk of the House, upon receipt of such revision, to make such identifications to the Speaker of the House.
(Sec. 4) Requires the additional Representative to which the state of Utah is entitled to be elected pursuant to a redistricting plan enacted by the state.
(Sec. 6) Repeals provisions of:
(1) the District of Columbia Delegate Act establishing the office of District of Columbia Delegate to the House of Representatives; and
(2) the District of Columbia Statehood Constitution Convention Initiative of 1979 providing for election of a Representative for the District. Makes conforming amendments to the District of Columbia Elections Code of 1955.
(Sec. 8) Sets forth procedures for expedited judicial review of any action brought to challenge the constitutionality of any provision of this Act or any amendment made by it.

The bill passed the Senate earlier today with 61 votes; just enough to avoid a potential filibuster attempt by opponents. But not before Senator John Ensign, an opponent of the measure, proposed an onerous amendment that would lift virtually all local gun control laws in DC. Senator Ensign's amendment is a 'poisoned pill' intended to stall or kill the measure before enactment by eroding its Democratic support.

The House is expected to pass its version of the bill by the end of next week. Then a Conference Committee will be charged with reconciling the House and Senate versions. Hopefully, they will find a way to artfully excise the Ensign amendment during conference.

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