Senate agrees to give D.C. residents a vote

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Residents of the U.S. capital would finally have a full voting member in Congress, heeding demands first made by democratic activists two centuries ago, under a bill passed on Thursday by the Senate.

The U.S. Capitol dome is reflected in the glass roof of its underground visitor center ahead of President Barack Obama's first address to a joint session of congress, in Washington, February 24, 2009. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

On a vote of 61-37, the Senate sent the measure to the House of Representatives, which is expected to approve a similar version next week.

Once the two chambers resolve differences and pass a final bill, President Barack Obama has promised to sign it into law.

The measure would give Washington, D.C., full political representation in the House, setting up a legal challenge likely to wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court. Opponents say the U.S. Constitution allows for representation for states only, not cities or districts.

The United States is the only democracy in the world that does not provide citizens of its capital a full voting member in its legislative branch, bill backers say.

“It is patently unjust and un-American,” said Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent and a chief sponsor of the legislation.

Each of the 50 U.S. states have two members in the U.S. Senate. The number of representatives each state has in the 435-member House is based on their population.

Washington, D.C., which used to be part of the state of Maryland, was created as a district by the federal government and designated as the U.S. capital in 1800. Residents have sought representation in Congress ever since.

The Senate and House bills would give Washington -- named for the first U.S. president and also known as the District of Columbia -- a representative, but no senators.

(Editing by David Wiessler); +1-202-789-8015; Reuters Messaging: