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Washington Report: Updates from Capitol Hill

No Voting Rights for D.C.

The District of Columbia lost yet another opportunity to gain a vote in Congress this week. During his weekly pen and pad session with reporters Tuesday, a visibly disappointed House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced that a vote on the legislation had been removed from the floor schedule. The decision was made after consulting with D.C.’s nonvoting delegate. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a longtime voting rights advocate, found language added to the bill that would restrict the District’s right to enact gun control laws risible.

Hoyer said that he was “profoundly disappointed” that Congress would not consider legislation that would give 600,000 District residents a vote in the House, but “the price was too high.”

According to Norton, despite concerns about the gun issues, she had spent the past year pushing the bill forward because the current majorities in the House and Senate may not exist after November, making the vote that had been scheduled for Thursday its best chance for passage. She asked Hoyer to cancel the vote because of “three outrageous provisions” in an updated version of the bill that made the gun amendment “even worse than I thought was possible,” Norton explained in a statement, and because those changes would cause anti-gun senators to drop their support.

Under the provisions added to the bill, the District would be barred from prohibiting people from carrying concealed weapons; the right of the city’s police chief to refuse the issuance of concealed carry licenses would be severely limited; and the District would be unable to prohibit guns in city-controlled buildings or structures that don’t have security measures in place to detect them. A fourth would prevent residential and commercial building owners from restricting or prohibiting firearm possession by tenants.

“These provisions are so over the top, they are unworthy of serious consideration,” Norton said.
Although Hoyer was pessimistic about the prospect of getting a vote on the legislation during this Congress, Norton said that she is already exploring ways to get a voting rights bill passed this year.