WASHINGTON – The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, led by Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., passed historic legislation on Wednesday to give citizens of the District of Columbia a voting seat in the House of Representatives.

The bill was reported out of the Committee 11-1, with the support of nine Democrats and two Republicans, Senators Collins and George Voinovich, R-Ohio.

The District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009, S.160, introduced by Lieberman and Senator Orrin Hatch R-Utah, 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. A similar bill fell three votes short of filibuster-proof 60 votes last Congress. That bill passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 241-177.

“We have just witnessed an historic presidential inauguration, one many people thought would never happen,” Lieberman said. “This year, the 111th Congress has the opportunity to make history, as well, by passing this legislation. The right to be counted, to have your voice heard by your government, is central to a functioning democracy, fundamental to a free society, and the birthright of all Americans, no matter where they live.”

Collins said, “As a matter of fundamental fairness, I believe that residents of the District of Columbia should have voting representation in the U.S. House of Representatives. How to grant this representation in a manner consistent with the Constitution is a more difficult question. I believe this question is best resolved by the courts and not by this Committee. I was pleased that two important amendments I offered to last year’s legislation are now part of the underlying bill. The first amendment made clear that Congress by statute cannot create Senate representation for the District, representation specifically reserved to the states by our Constitution. The second amendment provided for expedited judicial review of the constitutionality of this legislation once it is challenged in the courts. With these amendments now included in this year’s bill, I again support reporting this legislation to the full Senate.

Lieberman said he hopes the bill is brought to the Senate floor soon and is confident it will win the 60 votes necessary to override a Senate filibuster. D.C. House Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty attended the Committee vote.
Also reported out of Committee were:

• S. 303, the Federal Financial Assistance Management Improvement Act of 2009, introduced by Senator George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and
• S. 69, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act, introduced by Senator Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii.
• The Committee’s funding resolution and rules of procedure.
• S. 234, a bill naming a Springfield, Ill., post office after Colonel John H. Wilson, Jr.