WASHINGTON — The US Congress has given up plans to take up legislation this year to give the US capital a member of Congress with full voting rights amid a dispute over gun laws, a top lawmaker said Tuesday.
“I am profoundly disappointed that we will not be considering legislation to give the 600,000 Americans who live in the District of Columbia what their 300 million fellow citizens have: A voting representative in the House,” Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters.
In unusually tough language, the Maryland lawmaker, who controls the agenda on the House floor, said he viewed the failure to give Washington a full member of the House of Representatives to be a “blight” on US democracy.
“Every capital city, in fact, in the free world — except Washington DC — has this right,” said Hoyer, who has repeatedly championed the legislation.
Hoyer said he hoped lawmakers would take up the measure — a longtime Democratic goal he described as “haunted” by failure — “in the near future” but allowed it would not happen before November mid-term elections.
“At this point in time, I do not see the ability to move it in this session of Congress,” said the Maryland lawmaker, who had announced a deal last week to hold a vote on the legislation.
The deal fell apart because of a break over the fate of Washington’s strict restrictions on firearm ownership, which would have been repealed by a version of the legislation the Senate approved last year, said a Hoyer aide.
“The price was too high,” said Hoyer, who told reporters he had reached his decision after discussions with Washington’s non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives, Eleanor Holmes Norton.
The US Senate passed a bill last year giving Washington a representative will full powers, but attached an amendment rolling back the US capital’s tough restrictions on firearm ownership, leading the measure to stall in the House.
The legislation to give Washington’s Democratic-leaning population a representative would also add a seat for the Republican-leaning state of Utah, bringing the total number of House members with full voting rights to 437.
The US Constitution provided for the creation of a federal district to house the US capital, but reserved the right to elect fully vested representatives to “the people of the several states.”
Currently, Holmes Norton can introduce legislation, and vote on bills when they come before a committee of which she is a member, but she cannot cast a ballot in a full House vote.