As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

No More Taxation Without Representation?

The DC Voting Rights Act passed today in the Senate by a vote of 61-37. It moves to the House, where it will be virtually assured of passage, and then in all likelihood to the US Supreme Court, where a ruling will be made on the constitutionality of offering voting rights to a member of Congress who is not from a state. Jonathan Turley says it's plainly unconstitutional, but others differ:

Judge Kenneth Starr, during congressional testimony in 2004, asserted the constitutionality of Congress using the District Clause to confer voting representation:

"The use of the word ‘state’ [in the Constitution] cannot bar Congress from exercising its plenary authority [under the District Clause] to extend the franchise to District residents."

Professor Viet Dinh concluded in a 2004 memorandum that the framers of the Constitution did not intend to deprive citizens of the most basic right of democracy – the right to have a voting representative in Congress:

“There are no indications, textual or otherwise, to suggest that the framers intended that Congressional authority under the District Clause, extraordinary and plenary in all other respects, would not extend also to grant District residents representation in Congress.”

In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee this month, the American Bar Association concurred with the analysis of Starr and Dinh:

“Enactment of the proposed [bill] would be an exercise of this constitutional authority conferred by the “District Clause”.... Not only is there a moral obligation for Congress to restore such rights, there is also a constitutional obligation for Congress to ensure the right of D.C. residents to the equal protection of the laws...”

Ultimately, the arguments don't matter as much as the numbers on the Supreme Court, and once again Anthony Kennedy will be the likely swing vote. Even if the court battle fails, however, Jerome Armstrong sees a road to statehood for the District:

"We will certainly be celebrating once the DC Voting Rights Act is passed," Zherka emphasized. "It will be a momentous win. But then, it's on to the business of defending any legal challenges to the legislation and looking towards future victories such as Senate representation and broader, local autonomy for the District."

The 'solution' is sorta a cut-the-baby-in-half one. DC gets a single Rep in the House, and one more is added, which goes to Utah and the GOP. But the issue of whether this is constitutional is a pretty big one-- since when do places that are not states have Congressional representation?

It will go to the courts, and I would not be shocked to see it reversed; because its not really that great of a precedent, and it doesn't really entirely solve the problem. If that happens, then it will go back to Congress, and force the issue of statehood-- which it should.

That's down the road. For the moment, 500,00 American citizens are closer to representation in their government.

...Also, the Senate had to take away the rights of the district to set their own gun control laws as a condition of representation, which sure sounds like the conservative mantra of "local control" to me! The Ensign Amendment passed (I'm not sure why it needed to, after Heller). Here's Clay Risen:

And Republicans wonder why D.C. votes overwhelmingly Democratic. Maybe it's because for all their talk of states' rights and federalism, when it comes to Washington the GOP is aggressively paternalistic, to the point where a senator from Nevada can, with a straight face, presume to tell Washingtonians the best way to run their city.

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