District voters will soon have a vote in Congress, a top D.C. official told members of the local Foggy Bottom Association on Tuesday evening.
“A little piece of justice came to the District today,” D.C. City Council Chairman Vincent Gray told audience members at the FBA’s monthly meeting, referring to the U.S. Senate’s consideration of the D.C. House Voting Rights Act.
The Senate voted to move the bill forward Tuesday, ensuring that it will come to a floor vote in the near future.
This vote, which supporters passed by a 64-32 margin, was a critical test for the bill as it moves forward to full floor consideration. Though the measure – which would give D.C. its first vote in the House of Representatives and grant an additional vote to the state of Utah – has not been fully approved yet, Gray seemed confident it would pass.
“We’d have to lose 12 votes in order for the bill not to pass,” Gray said. “We’re not going to lose 12 votes.”
Gray emphasized the importance of the bill for the future of the District.
“The same federal money we get, every other state gets but we have to send our budget to the Hill to approve how we spend our own money,” Gray said. “Six hundred thousand people live in the District of Columbia. We send people to war to fight and protect the democracy that we don’t have in this city.”
Gray, a GW alumnus, addressed other issues at Tuesday’s meeting beyond the D.C. voting rights. He promoted his work with D.C. youth, touting hearings where young residents are able to bring their problems to his attention.
“I’m not going to solve the problems for them,” Gray said as he shared an anecdote in which he directed students to the most effective way to force their school to improve athletic facilities. “I’m involving them in real-life situations. I want to give our people a sense of hope about our kids, one of the things we grossly underestimate is the power and capacity of our children.”
Councilman Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, also spoke at the meeting, focusing on the District’s finances and how they related to the nation’s budgetary restrictions.
“D.C. is doing better than any other jurisdiction in the country,” Evans assured. “We have managed the city well and our budget is balanced. We do, however, need to be really careful with our spending.”
Evans also expressed optimism about the recently passed stimulus package – specifically D.C.’s allotment of the $787 billion bill – but remained cautious about the future.
“The District did do well on the stimulus package. It is really going to help us out on our infrastructure,” Evans said. “Naturally I do worry. It is our challenge to get through this.”