Archive for the ‘District of Columbia’ Tag
A bill that would give the District of Columbia full representation in the U.S. House has cleared a key hurdle in the Senate, a procedural vote invoking cloture, 62-34, that will allow it to face a final vote in that chamber later this week. A majority of senators appear to support it. If passed by the Senate, it will then go to the House of Representatives, where such bills have previously been approved in past Congresses. President Obama has indicated he will sign the legislation.
The District presently has a Delegate in the House of Representatives, since 1991 Eleanor Holmes Norton (D). Delegates can vote in committee and on amendments but not on final passage of legislation. Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands also currently have delegates in the House; none has representation in the Senate (which the present bill would not change for the District).
Washington, D.C. is overwhelmingly Democratic; typically only about 10-15% of the city’s vote in presidential elections goes to the Republican ticket. It is extremely unlikely that the District would elect a Republican to any House seat that it is given. I don’t think such political considerations should bear on the matter, however. The bill in question, S. 160, would also grant another House seat to the State of Utah, which is currently represented by two Republicans and one Democrat, in the lower house. Utah is one of the most Republican-leaning states in the Union and would likely elect a Republican to that seat. The state missed out on gaining a fourth representative by just 856 people after the 2000 census (it went instead to North Carolina; there were some lawsuits over the way people were counted, but they went against Utah).
I think that the people of Washington, D.C. should have full representation in Congress—and not just because I don’t want them to mess up their flag, either; it seems like a matter of right to me. However, I think that the bill is probably unconstitutional. The Constitution says that Representatives shall be chosen “by the people of the several states” and a normal reading would seem to limit full congressional representation to states, which the District clearly is not. The Supreme Court’s precedents on the matter are divided, but it does appear likely the Court would strike down the bill. A Constitutional amendment may be needed to rectify the problem.