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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : By the People » By the People

By the People

Lamonte - September 21, 2007

On Tuesday the U.S. Senate voted against a bill that would have given the District of Columbia a representative in the House of Representatives.  The same bill would have given Utah a fourth seat in the House as well.  Many feel that the last census unfairly penalized Utah because so many of their citizens were out of the state serving missions for the Mormon Church and were not counted in the census.

My Congressman, Tom Davis from Virginia’s 11th district, led the fight to get the bill passed.  Although he is a Republican and knows that a representative from DC will very often cancel out his vote in the House, Congressman Davis presented a bill that would most likely add one Republican and one Democrat to the House. Unfortunately the simple majority of 57 votes in the Senate was less than the 60 votes required for such a measure.

 

A couple of months ago the Deseret News printed an editorial position that the bill should not be passed citing the well rehearsed statement in the Constitution that representatives should be selected “by the people of the several states.”  A few days later they printed a letter of mine pointing out, among other things, that such diverse political thinkers as Ken Starr and Patricia Wald have stated that the “There is nothing in our Constitution’s history or its fundamental principles suggesting that the framers intended to deny the precious right to vote to those who live in the capital of the great democracy they founded.”  I don’t really like Ken Starr but I know he is a respected legal scholar.  I don’t really know Patricia Wald.  She worked in the Carter Administration and was appointed as a federal judge by President Carter.  Since her retirement from the federal bench in 1991 she has served in various capacities in government service and continues to serve today.  In either case I am happy to have such prominent citizens, regardless of which side of the aisle they are on, speaking the same language as me.

Just two days after my letter was published Senator Orrin Hatch contributed an editorial to the Deseret News that said although the Constitution says that representatives shall be selected “by the people of the several states” it also states in the same article of the Constitution that Congress shall have authority to legislate for the District “in all cases whatsoever.”  The senator also pointed out that “for more than two centuries the courts have approved application to the District of constitutional, statutory and treaty provisions that are similarly phrased in terms of states.”  In other words, the people of America have not balked when the District is treated like a state in matters that might put limits on them.  But it seems many are concerned about the idea that the District of Columbia might receive a benefit or a right enjoyed by the states.

 

I find it rare that Senator Hatch and I agree on any political matter but I am happy to be on his side in this fight.  I am not a lawyer and don’t pretend to understand the legislative or constitutional process.  I know the Constitution is a precious document that should not be dealt with in a frivolous manner.  Yesterday the Deseret News posted another editorial with kind of an “in your face” attitude to all those who disagree with their stance that the vote in Congress was the correct one.  They claimed that Congressman Davis’ decision to include the additional Utah seat in the House was just a matter of making Utah a “useful pawn” in the process of bypassing the Constitutional process.  I believe the only useful pawn in this case has been the Constitution itself where those who oppose giving the citizens of DC a vote in Congress have looked narrowly at the phrase that says members of Congress “shall be selected by the people of the several states” and are simply opposing a vote for the District under the guise of patriotism.  Simply said, I would ask those opposed to the vote in Congress for the District to explain why they believe the people of the district should pay the same taxes and die in the same wars but have no representation in determining what taxes we pay or what wars we fight. 

13 Comments »

  1. Thanks for the interesting story Lamonte. I’m glad to hear that the Deseret News is still allowing you to torment their readers. You’ve reminded me of my great love for the DC license plate which reads: Taxation Without Representation.

    Comment by cj douglass — September 21, 2007 @ 6:49 am

  2. Lamonte, I think you are downplaying the Constitutional issues involved. You need to consider that Puerto Rico, USVI and Guam are also not States and also not represented. The situation is more complex than you make it out to be. Please read more here:

    http://www.millennialstar.org

    Comment by Geoff B — September 21, 2007 @ 7:28 am

  3. There is nothing in our Constitution’s history or its fundamental principles suggesting that the framers intended to deny the precious right to vote to those who live in the capital of the great democracy they founded.

    Huhn. Then why the big 18th century fuss over creating a federal district rather than placing the capital in any existing state?

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — September 21, 2007 @ 10:19 am

  4. Ardis -Are you suggesting that the capital district was created for the sole purpose of denying the residence of the district the right of representation? And please remember it was not this po-dunk farm boy from Idaho who made that statement – it was two recognized legal scholars.

    Comment by Lamonte — September 21, 2007 @ 11:11 am

  5. DC is too small of a geographic area to have two senators. If DC gets representation then
    I want my little NC county to have two senators from it elected as well. The attempt for DC representation is a transparent power grab by narrow minded lefties. Get a life.

    Comment by Craig — September 21, 2007 @ 4:27 pm

  6. The constitutional language is very clear. Article I Section 2 makes a particular reference to “State” in at least five places. The uppercase form is significant – uppercase is used when distinguishing a formal definition from the generic form. The District of Columbia may be a “state”, but it is certainly not a “State”.

    It is worth noting that territories and other possessions of the United States have always been without (voting) representation in the House of Representatives. Utah had no representation for almost fifty years.

    Article 4 Section 1 indicates that Congress has the power to admit new “States” to the Union. The District of Columbia has not been admitted. The only proper way to remedy the situation (short of admission as a state) is with a constitutional amendment.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 21, 2007 @ 5:14 pm

  7. Mark D – While I respect your legal opinion I believe I have provided a small bit of evidence that lawyers, like you, disagree with your assertion that the only remedy is to make DC a State or pass an amendment to the Constitution.

    Craig – Nobody os suggesting DC have Senators. My home county in Idaho is bigger thgan Rhode Island, geographically speaking,but Rhode Island has two senators and two Congressman. DC is only asking for one Congressman.

    Everyone – I know there is precedent for denying this vote for DC but so many seem to be making the argument in a tone that tells me they don’t want DC voters to be represented. My question is why?

    Comment by lamonte — September 21, 2007 @ 6:03 pm

  8. The argument for DC getting a representation seems to be based on “Taxation Without Representation”.

    What about all the youth who pay taxes on their income, but are not allowed to vote?

    Comment by Daylan — September 21, 2007 @ 9:39 pm

  9. Lamonte,

    I am not a lawyer, but I am familiar enough with the law to know that a lawyers with opinions that haven’t a chance of being upheld are a dime a dozen.

    Any resident of the District of Columbia who thinks they have a valid legal (i.e. constitutional) argument for representation in Congress should get together with like minded souls and file suit in federal court. Simple as that.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 21, 2007 @ 10:39 pm

  10. Mark D – I’m sorry. I mixed you up with another poster named Mark.

    Comment by lamonte — September 22, 2007 @ 6:10 am

  11. No problem, Lamonte. It is worth mentioning there was a proposed constitutional amendent to make the District of Columbia into a state once that gained a surprising amount of support. The 23rd amendment, which gives Washington D.C. presidential electoral vote(s), passed easily enough forty some odd years ago. I imagine one that adds House representation alone would have a good prospect of passage.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 22, 2007 @ 1:47 pm

  12. MArk D. – Your optimism is encouraging but an amendement to the constitution giving DC representation in both the House and Senate was passed by the Congress in 1978 but only 16 of the 38 required states ratfied the amendment. Hawaii, Oregon, Iowa and Louisiana were the only states west of the Mississippi to ratify the amendment. Since that time, several other attempts have been made to make DC a state, let DC voters vote in the Maryland election and many other options as well. All have failed and my reason for writing was simply to explore what it is that makes the majority of Americans, or their representatives, afraid to give those rights to the people of the District.

    Comment by Lamonte — September 24, 2007 @ 3:53 am

  13. I may be the lawyer you thought responded earlier, Lamonte.

    I’m with those who are troubled by giving a voting representative to persons who live in the District of Columbia–as has been said above, there are clear procedures for admitting new states to the Union, and that’s one way for the D.C. voting issue to be settled.

    The other thing, which I think is better, would be to have D.C. cede back most of it’s territory to Maryland. Keep the Capitol, the White House, the Supreme Court, the executive office buildings, the Mall and all the museums and monuments in a newly reduced District of Columbia, and give all the rest of the District back to Maryland.

    There’s a precedent for that, too. Look at where the southern line of the District is drawn–at the Potomac. All the Virginia portions of the District were ceded back to Virginia in July 1846, so why not give the Maryland parts back to them now–except for the actual seat of government.

    Now, maybe Maryland won’t want it–but can’t we just jam it down their throats? I mean, look at all the stuff the eastern states jammed down the throats of western territories as they sought statehood–and I don’t just mean abandoning polygamy. How do you think Nevada ended up being owned 95% (or whatever) by the Federal government?

    And, imagine those Maryland senators and representatives fighting against it! Fighting to keep those poor folks in Georgetown and Anacostia from having the right to vote.

    Maybe they could be required to send a lot of money, the same as the West German states had to send a lot of money to the east to make the marriage work–but, hey, they can do it. All those folks up in Silver Spring and Wheaton and Columbia just need to dig a little deeper and pay more in taxes, and it’ll be just fine.

    Comment by Mark B. — September 25, 2007 @ 8:55 am

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