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D.C. Voting Rights Bill Wins Crucial Senate Vote

Cloture Vote Means Opponents Cannot Fillibuster

Afro American Newspaper , News Report, James Wright Posted: Feb 26, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a historic step today, the United States Senate invoked cloture and allowed its version of the District of Columbia Voting Rights Act of 2009 to proceed to the floor for a vote. The cloture vote, 62-34, means that opponents of the bill, primarily Republicans, cannot filibuster the measure from a vote before the full Senate, which they did two years ago.

The cloture vote also means that the District of Columbia is one step closer to having a voting representative in the U.S. Congress, specifically the U.S. House of Representatives. Under the bill, which was sponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the House will increase its number permanently from 435 to 437 by adding the D.C. representative and an additional one from Utah.

The key to the successful vote was Republican support. D.C. Republican Committee Chairman Robert Kabel was happy with some Senate members of his party.

We thank the Republican senators who voted for cloture, Kabel said. Today marks a historic day for the District and I am proud that Republicans were a part of it. As party chairman, I am pleased our efforts to inform and lobby our fellow Republicans on the Hill have paid off.

Republicans other than Hatch voting for the bill were Sens. Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Richard Lugar (Ind.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Olympia Snowe (D-Maine), Arlen Specter (Pa.) and George Voinovich (Ohio).

The only Democrats voting against the bill were Sens. Robert Byrd (W.Va.) and Max Baucus (Mont.).

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray (D) were among the elected officials who sat in the Senate Gallery to watch the proceedings.

The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by longtime D.C. statehood supporter Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), will mark up its version of the D.C. Voting Rights bill on Feb. 25. While Republican committee members may try to insert amendments on issues such as school choice and gun control, the amendments would likely be voted down by the Democratic-dominated committee.

The bill will be put on a schedule for a House vote. In 2007, the D.C. Voting Rights bill passed by a comfortable margin in the House and with more Democrats in the chamber, its passage is assured.

If there are significant differences in the Senate and House versions, a conference committee will be called by leaders of both houses to reconcile them. When that happens, the bill will go through both houses again, with a voice vote.

When passed by both houses, it will be sent to President Obama who has told Norton that if the D.C. voting rights bill gets to his desk, he will sign it. Under the best scenario, the bill will reach Obama in early spring.

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