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Just Who Does Tom Davis Represent ?

by @ 10:11 am on April 15, 2007. Filed under Virginia, Virginia Politics

Tom Davis represents the 11th Congressional District in Virginia, but to judge by two of his most well-known legislative initiative, you would think he’s competing with Eleanor Holmes Norton for the distinction of representing the District of Columbia.

First, there’s his role in the effort to give the District of Columbia voting rights in the House of Representatives:

The city has seen other surges of enthusiasm about voting rights, notably when Congress passed a constitutional amendment in 1978 to give the District representatives in the House and Senate. But when the measure failed to win ratification from enough states, interest in the issue “went through the floor,” Leonard recalled.

As recently as a few years ago, Zherka called a meeting of local groups to discuss strategy. “Two people showed up,” he said.

What changed? In 2003, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) proposed a political compromise that would add two seats to the House of Representatives — one for the heavily Democratic District, another for the next state in line to pick up a seat, Republican-leaning Utah. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the city’s non-voting House delegate, signed on to the bill last year, bringing her party onboard.

So, it was Tom Davis who came up with this idea, which seems to me to be clearly unconstitutional, but the real question is why in Congressman Davis concerning himself with the status of the District of Columbia when he was elected to represent the interests of the people of the 11th Congressional District of Virginia ? Yes, he was the Chairman of the committee that oversaw District government when the Republicans controlled Congress, but that doesn’t mean he should be an advocate for the city, and certainly not an advocate for a proposal that, arguably, works against the citizens of his own district by reducing the value of his vote in Congress.

But this isn’t the only example of Congressman Davis’s strange fascination with the interests of District citizens. Way back in 2002, he was the chief sponsor of a bill that gave D.C. high school students the right to get in-state — meaning taxpayer subsidized — tuitition at virtually any public university in the country and, on his website, proudly highlights the fact that he has worked for its renewal now that it is set to expire in September:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said today he was pleased the committee approved his measure to re-authorize the D.C. College Access Act.

The Committee adjourned before voting on Davis’ Metro authorization bill because an opponent of the legislation, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., requested a roll call vote on it and there were not enough members present for a quorum.

“I thank my fellow Committee members for helping move forward this legislation critically important to residents of this area,” Davis said. “D.C. residents have found, in huge numbers, that the College Access Program quite simply makes college affordable. And we all know how much it helps a community and its tax base when more of its high school graduates can go to college.”

The District of Columbia College Access Act, which allows graduates of D.C. high schools to attend colleges nationwide at in-state rates, is up for re-authorization after a five-year run of unparalleled success. The legislation, reported out of committee by voice vote, has helped to double, in just five years, the percentage of D.C. high school graduates going on to college – who now have the incentive of college availability lying before them beyond high school.

“The D.C. College Access Act has helped level the playing field for District students and create strong incentives for them to stay in school and pursue a college education,” Davis said. “For their parents, it has helped encourage them to stay in the city, rather than leave for the suburbs, and keep the District’s tax base strong. This is a unique and highly successful federal investment.”

There are several problems with this, of course. The first one is the fact that I find nowhere in the Constitution that gives the Federal Government the authority subisidze college tuition for anyone, least of all such a small selective class of students. A second problem is one of inherent unfairness. District students are entitled to a subsidy that allows them to choose any public university in the country, students in Virginia, Maryland, or anywhere else in the country don’t have such a luxury. If they want to go to the Ohio State, The University of Michigan, or Rutgers, they have to pay out-of-state rates that either make the choice impractical for most people, or force them to take out student loans that will take years to pay off. Why is a student in the District of Columbia entitled to this subsidy, but a student in rural Southwestern Virginia not ?

More importantly, though, I simply cannot understand why Congressman Davis thinks its a good idea to use my tax dollars, and the tax dollars of other residents of the 11th District and the State of Virginia, in this manner.

How is he representing our interests ?

And, outside of his own political ambitions, just who does Tom Davis represent ?

6 Responses to “Just Who Does Tom Davis Represent ?”

  1. Tsk, tsk. How small minded. We shouldn’t let the Constitution get in the way of politicians pandering for votes. We don’t let the Constitution stop judges from making up law or administering law from the bench as they please. How petty.

  2. Citizen Tom says:

    James, I think the point Doug is making is that it is not clear what advantage Davis gains by pursuing an agenda the helps DC residents at the expense of his own constituents. I am also puzzled; however, I suspect it would be interesting to consider who is contributing to Davis’ campaign coffers.

    Perhaps, we should consider the possible outcome if Davis’ unconstitutional gambit run its full course. If DC had a congresswoman and two senators, can you imagine how much more money would be spent in the district. Undoubtedly, some local investors would benefit, and this additional spending would have positive short term effects on the economy in Northern Virginia.

    Of course, this economic boon to the local economy would not outweigh the harm done to our constitutional government or the probable effect on the deficit. So what Davis has been doing is neither ethical or wise.

  3. Ron says:

    From everything I’ve read, DC gets more than $20 for every dollar its residents send to the Federal Government. The District would get more benefit by giving up on the idea of Congressional vote and getting a complete waiver from Federal income taxes for its residents.

    As far as the in-state tuition goes, I guess I’d rather see it go to a DC resident than to an illegal alien. I do question just how much it benefits poorer people in DC versus the more affluent residents of DC who send their kids to private school only to get a break in college tuitions. If you only need to live in the District for a year to get such a benefit, the investment in private school tuition may well be worth it!

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