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Congress Examines Legality Of D.C. Vote Bill

by @ 1:13 pm on March 15, 2007. Filed under U.S. Constitution, Washington DC

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.

2 Responses to “Congress Examines Legality Of D.C. Vote Bill”

  1. Brenda Bragg says:

    I am a native washingtonian, born and breed. When congress formulated in DC giving the district of columbia no voting rights on the hill, was it aware that the population of the city would grow to its current size? I think not. Was congress aware that the citizens of the district of columbia were also american citizens with given the right to vote by the US constitution? Growning up in the district during the 1950’s, 1960s and 1970s was a unique experience. However, the schools and could have been much better if we had a voting representative in the house and senate. the quality of life would have been better if the American tax payers living in the district of columbia had voting representation in the house and senate. Native washingtonians could possibly even had a university that would accept african american high school graduates and paid in-state tuition. This is a novel idea (more native washingtonians with college degrees). This should not be an argument for the politicans on the hill … give DC residents the right to vote on legislation that their tax monies are funding. Times have changed and American citizens who are native washingtonians want a VOICE in the political arena that is housed in their home town. we no longer want to be referred to as the city that pays taxes but have no voting representation on the hill. Under the US Constitution, we are entitled to have voting representation and we want voting represenation.

  2. MichaelW says:

    “Was congress aware that the citizens of the district of columbia were also american citizens with given the right to vote by the US constitution? … Under the US Constitution, we are entitled to have voting representation and we want voting represenation.”

    Aside from the myriad fallacies asserted in your comment, this is by the far most riduclous. Exactly where in the Constitution is anyone “given” the “right to vote”? There are two Amendments that prohibit States from denying the franchise on the basis of sex or race, but nowhere is there a provision that “gives” anyone the right to vote. That is solely within the purview of the States.

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