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Running Out of Time on the DC-Vote Bill

For supporters of the bill to grant Washington, D.C., a voting representative in Congress, it may be 2010 or never. At least that’s the warning coming from former Rep. Tom Davis, the Virginia Republican who championed the D.C.-vote bill for years — to no avail.

You might remember that the proposal came as close as it’s ever come last year, passing the Senate in February, but not before conservatives attached an amendment scrapping most of Washington’s gun-control laws, which are among the strictest in the nation. That provision created a dilemma for the liberal Democratic leaders in the House, who supported the underlying bill but not the gun amendment. As a result, the bill has been sitting idle for almost a year.

But Davis, Roll Call reports today, says Democrats should hold their noses and pass the whole package this year — or else.

“This window closes at the end of this session and probably well before that,” said Davis, who now works at Deloitte Consulting. “I would take the medicine if that’s what you have to do. It’s not the way it should be done, but given the reality, I would take it with the gun language.”

The reason for the urgency is this: The bill also creates another House seat for conservative Utah — a provision that won the support of some Senate Republicans, who likely wouldn’t have voted for the bill otherwise. Trouble is, the 2010 Census is expected to yield Utah another lawmaker without congressional intervention. Take the Utah chip away, and Democrats are left without much leverage to gather GOP support — leverage they might need considering that two Senate Democrats voted against the bill the first time around.

Roll Call again:

“The Utah seat is important,” conceded Ilir Zherka, executive director of DC Vote. “We are very aware of the need to act as quickly as we can so that we can enact a law that fulfills the vision all of us had.”

Of course, while this political skirmish continues, the roughly 600,000 folks living in the nation’s capital have no true voice in Congress. How’s that for democracy?

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