Thursday, July 15, 2010

How Far Will Republicans Go to Actively Deny Voting Rights to 600,000 Americans?

On Wednesday, the House Administration Committee approved a bill that would put statues of two Washington, DC heroes in the U.S. Capitol. The seemingly benign bill was actually approved on strictly party lines, having been met with fierce opposition by the committee's top Republican, Dan Lungren (CA-3), and his colleagues.

Why, you ask? Because giving DC two statues in the capitol would mean that it has as many statues as each of the 50 U.S. states, which implies that it is equal to the states. Which, of course, it's not. Because DC residents have no voice in the federal government. And Republicans certainly want things to stay that way.

Earlier this year, the district came seemingly closer than ever before to getting at least a vote for their current "delegate," Eleanor Holmes-Norton. But that bill, which was already turned into a compromise granting an extra Representative to Utah (read: a Republican to balance the DC Democrat), was then smacked with a Republican amendment easing gun restrictions in the District, one of the most crime-heavy cities in the country. Indeed, Senator John Ensign, adulterer of Las Vegas, NV, knows what's best for DC gun laws.

So it looks like DC residents won't be represented by a voting member of our federal legislature any time soon. The "Taxation Without Representation" motto that adorns the District's license plates embodies a frustration that has existed for more than 200 years now. The justification for not allowing 600,000 tax-paying American citizens to have federal representation? Apparently Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which grants Congress the power:

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings.
Huh? So the Constitution gives Congress the power to write or veto DC's laws at its whims. I get that. But why can't they have a Representative or Senators? While James Madison certainly wanted to make DC a unique jurisdictional entity—and markedly separate from the states—nowhere in the Constitution does it deny those who dwell in the nation's capital the right to representation in Congress.

And yet, a city with more residents than Wyoming has 3 fewer congressional representatives (though no Dick Cheney, to be fair).

So, Dan Lungren, keep up the good fight. Keep trying to deny DC its statue of Frederick Douglass in the Capitol. We all know equal statues is tantamount to equal rights, and we can't be having that now, can we.

Images: Frederick Douglass statue that, if placed in the Capitol along with a statue of DC's original city designer Pierre L'Enfant, would give a dangerous message to DC residents about potential equality (flickr)

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