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The D.C. Vote Bill Is Back

by @ 1:21 pm on February 12, 2009. Filed under D.C. Statehood, D.C. Vote Bill, Politics, U.S. Constitution, Washington DC

Last year, the legislative effort to give the District of Columbia a vote in Congress died when it couldn’t get past a Senate filibuster.

This year, the Democrats have a much larger majority, and the effort is being renewed:

WASHINGTON — This could be the year that Washington gets a voting member of Congress.

“There is finally a light at the end of what has been a really long tunnel,” said the city’s nonvoting delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton.

On Wednesday, a Senate committee approved a bill to give the city a voting member of the House of Representatives, clearing the way for the full chamber to take up the matter in the coming weeks.

The legislation would permanently expand the 435-member House by two seats. One seat would go to Washington and the other to Utah, which narrowly missed getting an additional seat after the last census. Utah, which traditionally leans Republican, now has one Democrat and two Republicans in the House.

A similar bill passed in the House in 2007, but the Senate version received only 57 of the 60 necessary votes.

I’ve discussed the Constitutional problems with this scheme before here, here, here, and here.

As I’ve noted before, there is a way to give the residents of the District a vote in Congress and representation in the Senate and still comply with the Constitution. It’s called retrocession:

The District of Columbia was originally formed out of territory granted to the Federal Government by both Maryland and Virginia. Virginia’s portion included all of what is now called Arlington County, and portions of the City of Alexandria. In 1847, all of the Virginia territory was returned to the Commonwealth of Virginia by an Act of Congress and a law passed by the Virginia General Assembly. All of the remaining territory of the District of Columbia, including both the areas used by the Federal Government and the residential and business areas, is comprised of what used to be parts of the State of Maryland. Therefore, retrocession to Maryland would be the logical step.

Technically, Congress could probably do this without Maryland’s consent, but even if consent was required and was not forthcoming, there’s still a way that retrocession to Maryland could be accomplished:

Virtual retrocession.  If Maryland won’t have DC back, simply count DC residents as part of Maryland for the purposes of U.S. Senate representation and allow them to vote for Maryland’s two Senators.  Give them a House seat that’s counted as a “Maryland” seat but whose boundaries are fixed and excepted from the Baker v. Carr rule of equal size.  (This may require a Constitutional amendment but strikes me as within the spirit of the Constitution, since representation would still remain with states.)

Either of these methods would do far less violence to the Constitution than a clearly unconstitutional Congressional fiat.

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3 Responses to “The D.C. Vote Bill Is Back”

  1. This is a brilliant solution to this problem. Of course this isn’t the solution that democrats want. Democrats want to cement there majority in the Senate, so you have to believe a solution such as yours would fall on deaf ears. Thanks for showing me how this problem could have a real world solution, even if the morons on Capitol Hill would never adopt it.

  2. Jose de Sucre says:

    I totally agree with you that retrocession to Maryland is the logical way to go, and I am a Maryland resident. What can we do, then, to create the “clamor” that some believe it is necessary for Maryland political leaders to claim back the territory that was given to create the DC. Of course, Congress can “carve out” the land for the White House, the Capitol, etc. We need to launch an initiative for the people of Maryland to write their representatives in the state legislature and in Congress. One million signatures should be enough. Let’s do it.

  3. Retrokevbot says:

    I am a Marylander as well and agree with retrocession. It is the most logical approach. Lots of practical issues to sort out but really makes a lot of sense. The Maryland National Capital area has distinct economic, cultural and ethnic ties across county and district lines.

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