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 agreeing to the resolution governing the rules of debate
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H. Res. 260, providing for the consideration of H.R. 1433, (District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act)/On agreeing to the resolution governing the rules of debate
house Roll Call 180     Mar 22, 2007
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Progressive

This vote determined the rules for debate for a bill to grant full voting rights to residents of the District of Columbia. The 572,000residents 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.

The rules package included a tiny, obscure tax provision that sought to offset a $2.5 million price tag that the Congressional Budget Office put on the bill. Because of the House's "pay-as-you-go" spending rules, the Democratic majority had to decide whether to try to waive those rules (and risk loosing that vote) or offset the cost elsewhere in the federal budget. They chose the latter, and inserted language into the rules for debate that would offset the price of the bill with a .003 percentage point increase to a federal withholding tax.

By including a tax provision, Democrats expanded what is known as the "germaneness" of the bill, meaning the scope of amendments that are considered relevant enough to attach. This would later serve as an opportunity for Republicans to seek to include an amendment on gun rights in the District, which included language aimed at killing the bill. This move created a parliamentary nightmare for Democrats, who ended up postponing a vote on the bill for a month. (The rules package included a provision allowing the majority to put off the vote on the bill for an undetermined period.)

In addition to granting residents of D.C. a voting representative in Congress, the underlying legislation 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.

Votes on rules packages are almost always party-line votes, and this was no exception. All but one Republican voted against the rules for consideration, and all Democrats voted for it. Thus, by a vote of 226-195, the House passed rules for debate for a measure to grant the residents of the District of Columbia full voting rights in the House of Representatives. Because of subsequent Republican parliamentary maneuvers, however, the bill would not come for a final vote for another month, as Democrats worked out a way to bring up the legislation without a provision allowing semi-automatic weapons in the District that was designed by Republicans to kill the bill.

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