City Desk

BREAKING: Norton Kills Voting Rights Bill

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has killed the D.C. House Voting Rights Act.

The decision to hold off on current legislation due to the threat of gun-related amendments follows a conference call on Sunday with various advocates and local politicos. A compromise gun legislation proposed by the office of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer was reviewed.

The consensus was not to move forward with the compromise. "Please understand that we are holding the bill for now, not giving up on voting rights," Norton wrote.

[UPDATES BELOW, with statements from Ilir Zherka of D.C. Vote, Council Chairman Vincent Gray, and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty]

Here is the full statement she sent this morning to various legislators, staff, and advocates involved in the voting rights push:

TO: Sen. Lieberman
Sen. Hatch
Rep. Conyers
Rep. Lee
Mayor Fenty
Chairman Gray

From: Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

As you are aware, I have been working to remove the Ensign gun amendment from the DC voting rights bill with leaders in the House and Senate, the Administration, and my colleagues. Majority Leader Hoyer has been trying unsuccessfully to get the votes for a clean bill before the thick of the upcoming appropriations period and heavy legislation headed for the floor. The Majority Leader and I met on Friday afternoon to discuss our bill, a draft of a compromise gun amendment from his office, and other options for moving the voting rights bill to the House floor now.

We sent a memo summarizing the content of the meeting with the Majority Leader and of the compromise amendment and shared the memo before a conference call on Sunday with the bill’s major advocates whom we could reach, including the DC vote coalition. The conference call discussed in detail all of the options available to us at this time, none of which would result in the elimination of the Ensign amendment, as well as the split in opinion in the city about attaching a bill that carries a danger to public safety and elimination of the city’s authority over gun legislation. All agreed that there were good reasons to wait for now. Please understand that we are holding the bill for now, not giving up on voting rights. I would be happy to discuss details with you personally.

On Monday evening, I discussed this matter with the Majority Leader. Majority Leader Hoyer indicated he will say at his regular Tuesday press conference that there is not a consensus to move forward with the bill at this time. Concerning the future of the bill, he will make clear that the bill continues to be important because the 600,000 American citizens in the District deserve the vote.

Hoyer indeed made such remarks today.

UPDATE, 1:55 P.M.: A statement from D.C. Vote:

"The fight is far from over," said Ilir Zherka, DC Vote Executive Director. "We will do everything in our power to pass the DC Voting Rights Act in this Congress. But, it's obvious that we'll also need to take our battle on guns to the next level. Unfortunately we know that the NRA will continue to find a vehicle for the Ensign amendment and we will fight this at every step."..."We are so grateful for Majority Leader Hoyer's commitment to this issue," Zherka added. "We are confident that with the continued support of the House Leadership, that the DC Voting Rights Act will pass in the 111th Congress."

Zherka adds in an interview with LL that the enduring question was, "were pro-gun Democrats willing to support the DCVRA without the Ensign amendment." The answer, apparently, was no, and Zherka and allies found themselves unwilling to swallow the poison pill, which he deems "outrageous and a infringement on D.C.'s local democracy."

Zherka declined to discuss the Sunday conference call, though he denies ever reviewing any gun compromise from Hoyer's office.

As far as a timeline for further movement, Zherka says, "I'm not that concerned about projecting a timeline. We're going to get it through if we can....I don't know if it's going to be the fall, the winter, next year. We've never been too preoccupied with a official deadline."

UPDATE, 3:50 P.M.: D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, in an interview, reports he spoke with Norton and Hoyer over the weekend, where he reiterated his opposition to accepting any gun amendment. "I hate to be glib," he says, "but it was as if we had to give up democracy to get democracy."

Particularly troubling, Gray notes, is the prospect of accepting gun language then having the voting-rights provision struck down under a constitutional challenge.

Disappointment, however, is the word for Gray, given the rapid turn of events since the measure passed the Senate in February. "I think if you had said six months ago we'd be having anything besides a celebration today," he said, "I wouldn't have believed you."

UPDATE, 3:55 P.M.: Here's a statement from Mayor Adrian M. Fenty: “On behalf of the residents of the District of Columbia, I applaud the leadership and great effort put forth by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, District Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton and other Congressional leaders for their work to secure full voting representation for District residents. Going forward, I remain committed to working with our Congressional leaders, as well as members of the Council of the District of Columbia, to secure full voting representation as fast as humanly possible.”

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  • Wrack

    Goodbye, sweet optimism.
    Hello, broken promises.

  • 2b3s

    Ensign needs a fire-hose enema.

  • TS

    And the right is afraid of America becoming a socialist country? Which form of government forces regulations upon its citizens without giving them even the slightest voice in the matter? Republicans suck -- all of 'em.

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  • SG

    Yes, the Republicans are abhorrent, per usual. But let's be honest- some of the Democrat Brutuses also sold us down the river by cowtowing to the NRA. How that organization has so much power is beyond me. The system is broken.

  • Mike Licht

    The DC House Voting Rights Act (H.R.157/S.160): another victim of senseless gun violence.

  • dcdc

    They are throwing out the baby with the bathwater. This is a joke. EHN and the Council squandered the best chance we have. This is the COUNCIL'S fault. Everyone knew this was going to happen after the Dec. regs were passed. And now? The gun rights amendment will just be added to something else.

  • Taye

    I predicted this would happen. The entire matter was handled wrong from the start. There should have been a challenge to the Supreme Court regarding taxation without representation first.....

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    The lazy, ignorant, apathetic citizens of DC do NOT deserve the right to vote. Fight for it, you lazy, ignorant apathetic sheep.
    Shut down the 14th Street Bridge every day for a week. Shut down the Key Bridge the next week. Continue.
    You will have full voting rights in a fortnight.

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Shut down the 14th Street Bridge every day for a week. Shut down the Key Bridge the next week. Continue.
    You will have full voting rights in a fortnight.

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  • Liberty

    Why not give DC residents ALL of their rights, including those guaranteed to them under the second amendment? Are the DC residents afraid of a Black Man With A Gun?

  • Wrack

    If we care so much about having a vote in Congress, why don't we stage a few sit-ins and strikes? Get 20 or 40 thousand people together and plunk them all down on Constitution or Pennsylvania Ave. every day for a week. Make MPD and the Capitol Police pepper spray the peaceful-but-immobile protestors... right in front of the cameras. No rioting, just an enormous mass of humanity showing its unified will to every television in the country.

    Hmm, if only this town had some kind of local precedent for staging very large demonstrations in the name of civil rights.

  • bests

    Any word on what the proposed compromise was?

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Juneteenth! June 19 8 am - March to the 14th Street Bridge for Civil Rights for DC citizens! March from Freedom Plaza to the Bridge.

  • A. Loikow

    I thank Delegate Norton for pulling a bad bill. Instead of looking to resurrect it, though, she should change her position and put her full support behind getting Congress to admit the State of New Columbia. That way she won't run the risk that any vote she would get could be revoked by Congress. After 209 years, 33 years LONGER than the lifespan of the 13 original colonies PLUS the length of the Revolution PLUS the time it took to negotiate and sign a peace treaty, it is time to do the one thing that is the simplest and most constitutional -STATEHOOD. It is the only thing that Congress can't amend, repeal or rescind. All states enter the union on an equal basis and get the same rights and privileges as all other states. 209 years as a colony is much, much too long.
    A. Loikow

  • dcnative

    Great quote, AF, great quote.

  • Sean Sorrentino

    Sad Pandas. DC statehood will not pass constitutional muster. and neither will DC's gun laws. Here's to the restoration of DC residents 2nd Amendment rights.

  • countertop

    So sad that ENH, Vinny Grey, Adrian, et al are so beholden to the lies and decit of the racisct gun banning bigots that they'd rather suppress the clear constitutional rights of black men and women to defend themselves and fight for what's right than actually allow those some people the right to vote.

    A pox on all of them, starting with that fraud Elanor Norton Holmes!

  • Call me crazy

    Tax Protest? W2s in the river? They gonna arrest, say, 30,000 people? 1 in 20? 5% of DC?

  • dfrs

    You nailed it counter

  • David Scott

    Although, I personally am so far to the left that even the democrats appear to me to be "right-wing," I consider myself to be a strict constitutionalist. It is my opinion that since its inception there has been an organized and systematic assault by the conservatives in the United States on the civil liberties written into the US Constitution. The “War on Drugs”; “War on Terror”; “War on Communism” and a host of other wars waged by the right wing are really nothing more than a War on People--an excuse to erode civil rights to the point of non-existence. I invite you to my website devoted to raising awareness on this puritan attack on freedom:

  • Fiftycal

    Just as well. If the subjects in DC had been allowed unfettered access to guns, there would be blood in the streets. Oh, there already is. Well, they would just vote more dimorats in anyway.