Supporters of the bill cheered the hearing set for Sept. 14; it will be first time the Judiciary Committee has aired the question of voting rights for D.C. in some 25 years, according to Ilir Zherka, executive director of the advocacy group, DC Vote.
"This is the first time in a generation" the committee will open a dialogue on D.C.voting rights, Zherka said. "We think it's great news."
The federal district -- where license plates complain about "Taxation without representation" -- has a nonvoting member of the House. The legislation, introduced by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., is designed to be politically neutral, providing a congressional seat to the Democratic stronghold of the District of Columbia and the Republican haven of Utah.
But a hearing on the bill doesn't guarantee a committee vote on the measure, and there are more hurdles of getting it out of the House and Senate before they adjourn for the year. The Senate plans to end its session Oct. 6 and may come back after the November mid-term elections, though it's unclear whether that will happen.
That gives the bill little time to pass before Congress is done and the bill would have to start over again.
"It's going to be difficult," Zherka says. "It's going to be a compressed agenda."
The measure, if passed, would create an at-large district in Utah covering the whole state until the next redistricting after the 2010 Census. Utah lost out on getting a fourth seat after the 2000 Census by less than a thousand people.
The House Government Reform Committee approved the bill, but the Judiciary Committee has primary jurisdiction to pass it. So far, there are 39 co-sponsors of the bill, including Utah Republican Reps.
Rob Bishop and Chris Cannon. Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson has not signed onto the measure, but favors a fourth seat.