I wrote yesterday about the Constitutional problems with the legislation currently pending in Congress to give the District of Columbia a vote on the House floor. Today’s Washington Post reports on a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee examining whether Congress has the legal authority to do what the proposed law contemplates
The legal argument against the law, made principally by law professor Jonathan Turley is similar to what I pointed out yesterday:
“The District was created openly, expressly to be a non-state,” Turley said, calling the bill “the most premeditated unconstitutional act of Congress in decades.”
Since only states have the right to a Congressional vote, then a bill that purports to grant a vote to a non-state is per se unconstituational.
Supporters of the bill, however, rely upon a seperate provision of Article I, Section 8 which gives Congress the authority to makes laws governing the Federal District:
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;
Plainly, this provision gives Congress the authority to make laws for the District of Columbia, which it did for nearly 200 years until the city was granted home rule. Even today, though, most major laws passed by the D.C. Council require approval by Congress. The only way that can change is by amending the Constitution.
What the so-called “District Clause” does not do, however, is give Congress the authority to ignore the Constitution itself and grant the District of Columbia rights and privileges extended only to the states.
As I said yesterday, there are several ways that would be valid under the Constitution and would give the residents of the District voting representation in Congress. One would be to return most of the District, with the exception of the area in the center of the city where most Federal offices are located, to Maryland and make the citizens of D.C. citizens of Maryland. Maryland is unlikely to agree to that, of course, but it is certainly an option.The other option is to amend the Consitution to give the District of Columbia voting representation in the House and Senate.
What Congress is trying to do, though, is blatantly unconstitutional.
Update: This shouldn’t come as a surprise…..the House Judiciary Committee has voted to send the bill to the House floor.