U.S. CAPITOL—-The D.C. House Voting Rights Act has passed its first test on the Senate floor, 62-34.
The roll is still being tallied, but here are some early surprises: Thad Cochran, of Mississippi voted yes, while fellow Republican Robert Bennett of Utah—-a state that stands to benefit from the DCHRVA—-voted no. Among the Democrats, Max Baucus of Montana, long an opponent of a District House vote, voted no just before the roll was closed.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty appeared on the Senate floor, along with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton. Fenty, for the most part, either chatted with Democratic members or kept to himself at the back of the floor.
Watching above in the gallery was a majority of the D.C. Council—-Vincent Gray, David Catania, Phil Mendelson, Kwame Brown, Jim Graham, Mary Cheh, Muriel Bowser, and Tommy Wells all attended, as did shadow senators Michael D. Brown and Paul Strauss.
The cloture vote, which requires 60 votes for approval, clears the way for the bill’s passage by the Senate, which requires a simple majority. It’s quite unlikely that the tally on final passage will reach 62 ayes, since several senators had indicated that they would support cloture without actually voting for the final bill.
UPDATE, 12:10 P.M.: Here are the surprise votes: As mentioned before Utah Republican Robert Bennett voted against; the surprise yeses were from Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Mississippi’s Thad Cochran. Freshman North Carolina Dem Kay Hagan, reportedly wavering, voted in favor of cloture. These votes helped boost an aye count that suffered from the absences of Democratic Sens. Ted Kennedy and Tom Harkin.
UPDATE, 12:20 P.M.: After the vote, councilmembers, staffers, and D.C. Vote types gathered in a reception room off the Senate floor to celebrate and take a few pictures. There they met with none other than embattled Illinois Sen. Roland Burris, who seemed delighted to greet such a happy group of people. Gray invited Burris to come to the John A. Wilson Building and exchanged cards with the senator’s chief of staff.
Folks snapped pictures of Burris surrounded by members of the council, which now included Michael A. Brown and Harry Thomas Jr.
After meeting with the councilmembers, Burris told LL that casting a voe for D.C. voting rights was “a great feeling, having gone to school out here [at Howard Law School].”
“Finally, it comes 50 years later,” he said.