DC Awaits Next Chapter in Voting Rights Saga

Voting rights supporters have hopes raised

WASHINGTON -- Supporters of District voting rights in Congress have their hopes raised now that the issue is back before the Senate.

"I think the votes are there. I think it's going to pass the Senate," Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), told the Washington Post. Hatch is sponsoring the bill with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). His state would receive an additional House vote if the legislation is passed.

But the history of this effort is not filled with victory celebrations. A similar effort failed just two years ago, and it's uncertain whether the additional seats Democrats picked up last fall will provide enough votes to get it through.

Not only that, opponents argue strongly that giving the federal city a vote in the House -- as this bill intends -- would be unconstitutional. The Founding Fathers specified that such direct-representation would be given only to the "people of the several states," and the District is not a state.

While the legislation is also expected to be put through the House, the biggest obstacle is in the Senate, where it will take at least 60 votes in order to avoid a filibuster. And we all know how long-winded politicians can be...

“Our present count indicates that we have the 60 votes necessary to invoke cloture and begin the debate on (the voting rights legislation),” Eleanor Holmes Norton said. “By Wednesday, we expect the Senate to begin debate on (the bill), which will then be open to amendments."

The Washington Post believes that at least 55 Democrats in the Senate are likely to vote in favor and that at least two senators are expected to vote no. Sen. Robert Byrd (W.Va.) and Sen. Max Baucus (Mont.), we're looking in your direction. The other may be Sen. Ted Kennedy (Mass.), who is still recovering from serious health problems.

Meanwhile, DC Vote is holding a National Call-In Day.  The goal:  let your senator know D.C. needs its voting rights.  Click here for all the information.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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