What: All Issues : Human Rights & Civil Liberties : Enfranchising the Disenfranchised/Voting Rights : District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act (H.R. 1905)/Motion to recommit with instructions to include language providing for expedited judicial review (2007 house Roll Call 230)
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District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act (H.R. 1905)/Motion to recommit with instructions to include language providing for expedited judicial review
house Roll Call 230     Apr 19, 2007
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This vote was on a Republican amendment to a bill to grant full voting rights to residents of the District of Columbia. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) moved to send the bill back to the Judiciary Committee with instructions to immediately send the bill back to the House floor with an amendment providing for expedited judicial review of the legislation. Legal action would have to be filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and that court's decision could be appealed to the Supreme Court.

The bill had what's known as a non-severability clause, which means that if any provision were to be invalidated by a court, all remaining provisions would also be invalid.

The legislation Republicans were seeking to amend would give the 572,000 residents of Washington, D.C., a voting representative in Congress. Currently, citizens of D.C., who pay federal income taxes and fight in the armed forces, instead have only a delegate to the House of Representatives who doesn't have full voting privileges on the House floor.

In addition to granting a voting representative to the residents of the District of Columbia, the underlying bill 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. The number of Representatives in the House would also permanently increase from 435 to 437.

Many Republicans questioned the constitutionality of the measure, 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.

Democrats and some Republican supporters argued that it was high time the more than half million residents of D.C. had the same rights as everyone else.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who drafted the bill, said the crux of the issue was not a constitutional one. Davis said the debate was not about "what Congress can do" but instead "about what Congress is willing to do."

A motion to recommit with instructions is the minority's last chance to make substantive changes to a bill before a final up-or-down vote on the measure. Such motions usually command total or near-complete party unity, even if individual lawmakers later break ranks with their respective party in voting on the legislation.

Despite support for the underlying bill from within Republican ranks, the motion divided the House neatly among party lines, typical of such procedural votes. Democrats were unanimous in their opposition to the Republican effort to send the bill back to committee with instructions to include language allowing for expedited judicial review. Republicans unanimously supported the motion, but the minority didn't have the votes to pass it. Thus, by a vote of 193 to 227, the House rejected a Republican attempt to amend a bill giving citizens of D.C. a full voting rights to allow for expedited consideration of its constitutionality by federal courts, and the legislation moved forward without the provision.

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