WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders decided Tuesday to shelve a District of Columbia voting rights bill, just days after announcing plans to move ahead with what supporters say was the best opportunity in a generation to give the district a voting seat in the House of Representatives.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., abandoned the long-sought legislation with the blessing of Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. Hoyer said they pulled the bill because of an amendment that would have repealed most of the district's gun-control laws. "The price was too high," Hoyer explained during a news briefing in which he said he was "profoundly disappointed" at "his inability to get this legislation passed."
It was an extraordinary reversal that came less than a week after Hoyer said he would revive the legislation on the House floor as early as today, in spite of the gun language. Norton said she asked him to change course when she learned that gun rights advocates were seeking to further loosen the city's firearms laws.
Norton said the "egregious changes" by Rep. Travis Childers, D-Miss., and Mark Souder, R-Ind., would "directly proliferate guns throughout the district," in addition to eroding support for the bill among liberal Democrats, particularly in the Senate. Norton said that legislation would have restricted the district from prohibiting concealed or openly carried firearms.
A year ago, the Senate passed voting rights legislation for the first time in three decades, but lawmakers attached language that would have limited the D.C. council's ability to enact new gun laws and scrapped most of the existing ones. The bill stalled in the House when it became clear that it would be difficult to stop the gun amendment.