Let me give you two excerpts from the U.S. Constitution:
Article I, Section 2:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States…
Article I, Section 3:
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State…
It seems perfectly clear to me that the Constitution intends that the Legislature—both houses—is to be composed of members from the States. The District of Columbia is not a state. Therefore granting the residents of the district a voting member of congress would be unconstitutional.
Proponents of this bill say that an amendment to the constitution is unnecessary since under Article I, Sec. 8, Congress exercises “exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District.” I laugh at that argument because of two reasons. 1.) That line actually reinforces the idea that the district is not a state. 2.) If a representative is created for the district, then this section of the constitution would no longer be in force due to the fact that the control is no longer “exclusive.” Congress would have to take into consideration the representation of the voting Representative. Furthermore, it seems ridiculous to me that creating a legislative seat for the district would not require an amendment to the constitution yet extending voting rights to residents did (23rd Amendment).
I do sympathize with the residents because their claim of “taxation without representation” is correct. In many ways, they are burdened with the same responsibilities as their fellow citizens who reside in the states but their representation is reduced to a delegate in the House. But, I’m a republican (small “r” in this case). We live in a federation of states and it is that collective that comprises the government. If we were to make an exception for D.C. residents, do we do the same for Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, etc? If we can overlook the state-representing requirement for the House, can we overlook it for the senate as well?
Obviously, telling residents that if they don’t like it they can go live in Maryland or Virginia wouldn’t work too well. The way I see it, something along these lines needs to be done:
- Pass a constitutional Amendment.
- Retrocede the majority of the district back to the State of Maryland leaving the mall and government offices adjacent to it. Giving land back has already been done in the past with Alexandria County and Virginia. This would make nearly all residents of D.C. citizens of Maryland.
To wrap up this long post, I want to share something that irritated me. Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, said that the constitutionality of this issue should be decided by the courts but that she favored D.C. having a representative. WTF?! I charge Sen. Collins with dereliction of duty. Every branch of government has the ability to determine what is constitutional. Congress can decide whether or not a bill is in line with the Constitution. If it is, they pass it. If not, they kill it. The President can decide whether or not a law is constitutional or not by enforcing or not enforcing that law. It is the Supreme Court, however, sets the interpretation.
I'm probably in the minority on this one, but I would like to know what you think. Should D.C. have a voting representative in congress. If so, is this bill the proper way to do it?