The taxpayers of the District of Columbia might be getting closer to representation in Congress this week—but not without caving in to the gun lobby, as both the New York Times and Washington Post pointed out in weekend editorials. The House is expected to vote this week on a bill that would give the District a voting House member, ending a long stalemate between voting rights advocates and the gun lobby.
Last year, when the Senate passed the D.C. Voting Rights Act of 2009, the pro-gun lobby, spearheaded by Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, successfully campaigned to add language to the bill that would legalize assault weapons in D.C., repeal the city’s firearms registration system and prevent the city council from passing any laws that “discourage” gun possession. The Ensign amendment was designed, in part, to stall the District’s voting-rights momentum by tying Democrats up in negotiations to eliminate the pro-gun riders — which is exactly what happened. D.C. has a Democratic majority and a population that’s over 60% people of color. Because it is not part of a state, its residents currently have only a non-voting representative in the House and no senator.
D.C.’s nonvoting representative, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, announced Thursday that she and city leaders are ready to do whatever it takes to finally give the citizens of the nation’s capital a vote in Congress—even if it means capitulating to the demands of conservatives and Blue Dog Democrats and reluctantly passing the bill with the gun amendment attached. “I have given this fight all that I had. There is nothing left to do but make the hard decision,” Holmes Norton said.