And yet, the citizens of Washington D.C. have never had a vote in Congress.
Last month, Democrats in the House tried to correct this injustice with H.R.1433, but a last-minute procedural move by Republicans stalled the legislation.
Today, the House finally passed the DC Voting Rights Act by a vote of 241 to 177. Unfortunately, Rep. Mike Rogers voted NO on this bill.
Here are some selected quotes (with YouTube video links) from members of the House about this important piece of legislation:
“For the many that have come to the nation’s capital seeking freedom for 206 years, among them my great-grandfather, Richard Holmes, a slave who ran away from a Virginia plantation in the 1850’s, and settled our family here. I appeal to your conscience, and ask for your vote, so that finally there also will be a vote here for your fellow Americans here who have paid for this precious right many times over in blood and treasure.” (Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.)
“The fact that approximately 600,000 US citizens live under taxation without representation within the United States today is repugnant to the very notion of democracy. How can the United States deny democracy in its capital while promoting democracy abroad?” (Rep. Michael Arcuri, NY-25)
“I take some personal pleasure in today’s proceedings because when I was born my father was a Member of Congress, he was on the Appropriations Committee and he chaired the District of Columbia Committee. At that time there was no mayor, there was no home rule, he was a strong supporter for the District to attain both. He would never have imagined all those many, many years ago that it would take this long to get a full vote on the House floor for the District of Columbia.” (Speaker Nancy Pelosi)
As Rob Getzschman explained in an excellent op-ed from the Christian Science Monitor yesterday, this issue is emphatically nonpartisan:
If spreading democracy is the imperative of the last remaining superpower, then the mandate for the US is to honor D.C. vot ing rights. To tolerate the status quo smacks of hypocrisy to foreign governments. As a senior Hong Kong official told Rep. Tom Davis (R) of Virginia in 2005, "Give your nation's capital the right to vote and then come talk to us about democracy in Hong Kong."
Sadly, partisan maneuvering belies the political nature of the D.C. voting rights issue. Yeas and nays fall along party lines due to the district's Democratic majority, and opponents see the enfranchisement of 580,000 US citizens as a "power grab" for the Democrats. The issue, however, is emphatically nonpartisan. Voting rights are rooted in the Constitution, not the partisan makeup of a region.
Rep. Rogers had the chance to make the correcct, moral decision today, and enfranchise nearly 600,000 American citizens, but he chose not to.
Unlike the citizens of Washington D.C., residents in Michigan's 8th district already have representation in Congress. Unfortunately, at least for the time being, Mike Rogers is our representative.