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.