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Steele Lobbying GOP On District Voting Rights

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Michael Steele made a trip to the Capitol Tuesday to meet with Senate Republicans and found himself on the opposite end of their position on voting rights for the District of Columbia.

Also in the chamber Tuesday was former Sen. Norm Coleman, still fighting his Minnesota election. "I brought the cavalry," Coleman said of Steele, the head of the GOP.

Just before the weekly lunch meeting, the Senate voted to end debate on whether to give the District of Columbia a vote in the House of Representatives. The 62-34 tally clears the way for amendments and then a final vote.

Republicans generally oppose giving the District a vote. Democrats, who couch the debate in civil rights terms, have long pushed for representation for the majority-black city.

Michael Steele is with them. "I was very pleased by it," Steele said of the vote to move forward, calling it "exciting as a native Washingtonian."

Asked if he'd be urging his party's senators to get behind the bill, he said, "Very much so. I think it's an important civil right for the residents of this city, and, like I said, having grown up here, I know how important it is to them."

Steele said that the GOP bows to no party when it comes to advocacy of civil rights. "We've always, as a party, been on the right side of that history so, hopefully, everybody will be there again."

Two Democrats, Max Baucus and Bob Byrd, opposed the vote for the District. (Washington City Paper is closely following the vote, for some obvious reasons.)

Democrats who support the right to vote expect the GOP to attach controversial amendments regarding gun control to the measure. Steele said he hopes they don't. "Hopefully it's a nice clean vote," he said.