Friday: We Answer Your Questions

Letters


Today, we'll take a break from H.R. 1105 and instead dig into our mailbag. So without further ado, here are your questions and our best attempt at answering them.


Murpheus of Orlando writes: I don't understand the business about Utah getting a vote. What's the justification??? 


Well Murpheus, for what it's worth, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) shares your confusion. 

"The obvious question is, 'Why Utah?'  And frankly, as a representative of the people of the state of Arizona, I must ask, 'Why not Arizona?' he said on the Senate floor Wednesday. "And if voting representation is not limited to states, then one must ask, 'Why not Puerto Rico and Guam?'"

Later, he identified the answer. "In 2003, lawmakers began floating an idea of a compromise bill to balance a House seat for the District of Columbia, which most assumed would be won by a Democrat, with a seat for a congressional district in Utah, which most assumed would be won by a Republican," McCain said.

It is worth noting, however, that in the 2000 census, Utah missed out on another seat in the House by 857 residents. The state went so far as to sue the government, arguing that it had undercounted the Mormons who were abroad doing service and missionary work. So the selection of Utah for an extra House seat is not as random as McCain makes it out to be.

But in the long run, it probably does not matter. The new representatives (from Utah and the district) would only take office in 2010. In that year is also a census, which will likely see Utah's seat given to another state.

So the short answer: Utah is getting a seat because of politics, but it probably will not keep it beyond the next census.


After the jump, what happens if the Senate does not pass H.R. 1105 by March 6?


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Tuesday in Congress

800px-Plane_crash_into_Hudson_River_muchcroppedphoto credit - Greg L. Photo licensed under a Creative Commons license

Well, not much to report for Congress on Monday. The cloture vote will occur today at 11 a.m., and we´ll make sure to bring you the results ASAP.


Tuesday is a similarly uneventful day. Tonight, President Obama will address Congress in a quasi-State of the Union speech.


Today´s hottest place to be on Capitol Hill: the House Subcommittee on Aviation hearing. Starting at 10 a.m., they will be hearing testimony on the crash of U.S. Airways flight 1549. Flight 1549 was the plane that landed safely in the Hudson river on January 15, 2009 after bird strikes disabled its engines.

The star witness is everyone´s new-found hero, Captain Chesley ¨Sully¨ Sullenberger III. The co-pilot, three flight attendants who were on board at the time and the air traffic controller involved are all testifying as well. 

Also appearing are representatives of the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA, as well as John Ostrom, Chairman of the USA Bird Strike Committee.

But is this hearing necessary? Jim Berard, communications director for the transportation committee, thinks so.

¨At this point, we don´t know until we find out what the testimony is,¨ Berard said when asked what the ultimate purpose of the hearing is. “We don’t always hold hearings with a particular
goal — sometimes the goal is to create an official record for Congress.”

He suggested the hearing could demonstrate a need for new legislation or guide the FAA in future rule making.

You can watch the hearing live at the House committee on Transportation and Infrastructure´s Web site.

Is this hearing worthwhile or is it just an expensive photo op? Tell us what you think.

Monday, Monday

Tomorrow will see Congress back in session after a short vacation, otherwise known as the Presidents Day District Work Period. It's quite the big day, too: Washington, D.C. may be inching closer to representation in the House of Representatives.

 

On tap for the Senate tomorrow is a cloture vote for a motion to proceed with consideration of S.160, which would award Washington, D.C. one legitimate, voting representative in the House. In other words, the Senate is about to vote on whether they should proceed to debate and eventually take a real vote.

 

The bill would also allocate a seat to the state closest to receiving one in the most recent census. Currently, that state is Utah. This measure has the practical effect of attracting bipartisan support for the bill. The district's residents, according to November 2008 voter registration statistics, are only 7 percent Republican. By adding a seat in conservative Utah, the bill negates the effects on the balance of power.


After the jump: What's up with the bill in the House, and what can Eleanor Holmes Norton do if it doesn't pass?


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