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D.C. may get a vote in the House

A Senate amendment to limit gun-control laws could complicate the effort to add the congressional seat.

February 27, 2009|Washington Post

The Senate on Thursday passed a bill that for the first time would give Washington, D.C., a full voting member of the House of Representatives. But senators managed to attach an amendment that would scrap most of the city's gun-control laws.

The 61-37 vote marked the first time in 31 years that the Senate had approved a Washington, D.C., voting rights bill.

The addition of the gun language could complicate the bill's passage, however, because it will be necessary to reconcile the Senate version of the legislation with the companion bill in the House. Voting rights supporters hope the gun amendment can be removed in those negotiations.

The House is expected to approve the bill next week, and President Obama has indicated he will sign it.

"We are coming to a pivotal moment in a march that has gone on for years and years," Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), the co-sponsor of the legislation, said in a brief speech before the vote.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the bill violated the constitutional provision that House representatives should be chosen by the "people of the several states." Washington, D.C., is not a state, he noted.

"The Constitution is short because its authors wanted it to be clear," McConnell said. He added that "it could not have been more so" on the issue of House representation.

The bill would expand the House permanently by two seats. One would go to strongly Democratic Washington, D.C., while the other would go to the next state in line to pick up a seat based on population count. For two years, that seat would be Republican-leaning Utah. It would then pass to whichever state qualified based on census results.

Similar legislation died in the Senate two years ago after passing the House. But it benefited this time from Democrats picking up at least seven Senate seats in the last election.

If it becomes law, the bill will expand the House for the first time since 1913. But it is likely to face a legal challenge that could go to the Supreme Court.

The gun amendment is similar to a sweeping measure approved by the House last year that was fiercely opposed by the Washington, D.C., government.

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