[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] overruled Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] lawyers who believe the District of Columbia Voting Rights Act of 2009 [S.160, PDF; JURIST report] pending in Congress violates the Constitution, the Washington Post [media website] reported [text] Wednesday. The proposed bill would give District of Columbia (DC) residents voting rights for the House of Representatives [official website] and give Utah an additional seat in the House. According to the report, Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) [official website] lawyers warned Holder, who supports the bill, that the legislation would violate language in the Constitution [Art. 1, § 2 text] stating that the House shall be "composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states." After OLC lawyers advised Holder of the bill's possible unconstituionality, Holder allegedly requested an opinion from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) [official website]. Former OLC deputy M. Edward Whelan claims [National Review Online blog] that by rejecting the advice of the OLC and turning to the OSG, Holder ignored sound legal advice in order to achieve the political goal of seeing the legislation passed. The report states that OSG lawyers told Holder they could defend the bill's constitutionality before the courts.
The House previously approved a DC voting rights bill in 2007, although it was later rejected by the Senate [JURIST reports]. The Congressional Research Service [official website] found that bill was likely unconstitutional for the same reasons [JURIST report] as the current bill is being questioned. DC Vote [advocacy website] claims that DC residents have the constitutional right [DC Vote materials] to vote for representation in the house on a number of grounds.