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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A plan to give Utah a fourth congressional seat and the District of Columbia its first voting member of Congress advanced Tuesday, making a floor vote in the House a possibility in the next few weeks.
The bill, which passed in a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, would permanently expand the U.S. House of Representatives by two members to 437.
The primary intent of the bill is to give the District of Columbia a voting member. Utah was added to the bill last year as a compromise in hopes of winning support in the then-GOP-led Congress. The District of Columbia would likely elect a Democrat, while Utah's new representative would likely be a Republican.
Utah missed out on a fourth congressional seat after the 2000 Census because 11,000 overseas Mormon missionaries were not counted.
The seat went instead to North Carolina, which was able to elect a 13th U.S. representative with an advantage over Utah of only 856 people.
If approved, the bill calls for Utah's fourth member to be elected in a statewide election. The state would be prohibited from redistricting until after the 2010 Census. Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, wants to change that.
Last year the Legislature approved new congressional maps creating four districts. He wants the Legislature to be able to implement those maps.
"If the Legislature chooses to keep it at-large, that's fine. He is opposed to Congress telling the state legislature when they can and can't redistrict," said Fred Piccolo, Cannon's spokesman.
Piccolo said Cannon would try to amend the bill during a House Judiciary Committee Wednesday or Thursday. If the bill passes there, it will then be heard on the House floor.
Alyson Heyrend, spokeswoman for Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, said House leadership wants the bill approved in the House before it takes a recess.
"April recess starts in a little over two weeks. I'd say it's a good sign it's on track," she said.
Matheson is a co-sponsor of the bill.
The bill still faces plenty of opposition. Critics contend it's unconstitutional to grant the District of Columbia a voting member in Congress.
"The real hurdle is going to be getting it through the Senate, although Congressman Cannon is confident it will," Piccolo said.
-- On the Net: House Resolution 1433 http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:H.R.1433:
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)