What: All Issues : Human Rights & Civil Liberties : Enfranchising the Disenfranchised/Voting Rights : H. Res. 260, providing for the consideration of H.R. 1433, (District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act)/On ordering the previous question
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H. Res. 260, providing for the consideration of H.R. 1433, (District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act)/On ordering the previous question
house Roll Call 179     Mar 22, 2007
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Progressive

This was a procedural motion on a resolution outlining the rules for debate for a bill to grant full voting rights to residents of the District of Columbia. The 572,000 residents of Washington, D.C., do not have a voting representative in Congress and instead have only a delegate to the House of Representatives who doesn't have voting privileges on the House floor.

Known as the "rules package," this resolution determined how much time each side would be given for debate, what amendments would be considered in order and what procedural motions would be allowed.

This vote was a motion ordering the previous question, which is a parliamentary maneuver that effectively ends debate, prohibits amendment and moves the House to a vote for an up-or-down of the resolution under consideration. If the motion for the previous question is defeated, the House in effect turns control of the floor over to the lawmaker who led the opposition to the question at hand, usually a member of the minority party. As such, motions to order the previous question are usually party-line votes, and the majority party almost always prevails.

In addition to granting a voting representative to the residents of the District of Columbia, the underlying bill would give Utah an additional at-large House seat until 2012, when House seats are to be reapportioned among the states based on the decennial census. This was done to make the bill party-neutral. Utah is a reliably conservative state, and the at-large district would likely be filled by a Republican lawmaker, whereas D.C. could be expected to send a Democrat to Congress.

Utah was chosen to offset the D.C. seat because the state missed getting an additional representative in the last round of redistricting by only a few hundred residents. The bill would expand the number of seats in the House by two, from 435 to 437. The bill would also give Utah an additional vote in the Electoral College for the 2008 election since electors are apportioned on the basis of the number of Senators and Representatives each state has.

"I hope that those who have not supported the bill can come to see that extending voting rights to residents of Washington, D.C., is the right and savvy thing to do," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis (R-Va.), a cosponsor of the bill. "The people's House should have room for all Americans to be represented."

Many other Republicans questioned the constitutionality of the measure, however, as Article 1, Section 2 states: "The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second year by the people of the several states." The District of Columbia is not a state.

As is almost always the case on motions ordering the previous question, the vote almost perfectly divided the two parties. All of the Republicans present voted against the measure and all Democrats present but one voted for it, and the motion passed 228-198. Thus, the House moved towards a vote on a resolution outlining the rules for debate on a bill to grant full voting rights to residents of the District of Columbia.

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