WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, hailed the historic, bipartisan vote in the Senate Thursday to grant the citizens of the District Columbia voting representation in Congress and provide a fourth Congressional seat for the state of Utah.

After three days of debate, the Senate approved the D.C. Voting Rights Act of 2009 by a margin of 61-37, with six Republicans voting for final passage.

“This is a moment of joy and progress,” Lieberman said. “Finally, the citizens who live in the capital of the free world will have the right to exercise the most basic freedom – the right to choose who governs them. This historic vote is another step on our long march to make our democracy ever more inclusive. I thank my friend, Senator Hatch, for his principled and steadfast support of this bill. His commitment to join in this historic change puts him up there with other great Republican Senators, like Everett Dirksen, who worked with Democratic President Lyndon Johnson to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1964. I also want to thank Senator Reid for his unwavering support and assistance in passing this bill.”

Hatch said: “Participating in the election of those who govern us is at the heart of our American system of self-government. It is a right for which generations of Americans have fought and died to preserve. So I’m pleased with the passage of this historic legislation that will ensure that my home state of Utah and residents of the District of Columbia get the representation in the House that they require and so richly deserve. And I commend my esteemed colleague, Senator Lieberman, for his leadership and foresight on this issue.”

The measure, S.160 – introduced by Lieberman and Hatch in the Senate and D.C. House Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton in the House on the first day of the 111th Congress – would increase the number Representatives in the House from 435 to 437, adding one for the District of Columbia and one for the State of Utah, which is the next state in line to receive an additional seat based on 2000 census figures.

The House Judiciary Committee reported out a similar bill Wednesday. The full House is expected to vote on the measure soon, and then the two measures will have to be reconciled.
Lieberman had introduced D.C. voting rights legislation in the Senate in each of the past five Congress. Last Congress, a D.C. voting rights bill fell three votes short of the filibuster-proof 60 votes needed for passage. That bill passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 241-177.

Co-sponsors of S. 160 included Senators Tom Carper, D-Del., Chris Dodd, D-Conn., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Russell Feingold, D-Wisc., Edward Kennedy, D. Mass., John Kerry, D-Mass., Mary Landrieu, D-La., Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Carl Levin, D-Mich,. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., George Voinovich, R-Ohio, Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Lieberman argued that the so-called District Clause of the Constitution, Article I, Section 8, gives Congress sweeping authority to legislate matters for the District of Columbia.

“The citizens of the District have fought in every war since the War of 1812 and pay federal taxes yet have had no say on issues of war and peace or how their money is spent,” Lieberman said. “That just doesn’t make sense.”