Thursday, April 19, 2007

Rogers Votes Against D.C. Voting Rights

"Taxation without representation" is generally considered a bad thing. As anyone who went to grade school knows, this was the slogan adopted by the Thirteen Colonies between 1763 and 1775 to describe the American colonists' primary grievence with Great Britain.

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.


Anonymous said...

Gotta disagree with y'all on this one. The constitution is pretty clear that only states get voting representation:

Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution states, “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several states.” The next sentence declares, “No Person shall be a Representative who shall not…when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.”

The founders were pretty clear. This should not be a vote for congress, it should be a constitutional amendment. Or DC should become a state, but we can't just start ignoring the Constitution.

Anonymous said...

D.C. residents absolutely deserve a vote in Congress.

FEDERAL TAXES: Like the rest of Americans, and unlike other territories like Guam, D.C. residents pay FEDERAL taxes. They actually pay the highest amount in taxes per capita in the nation. Can you imagine paying federal taxes, but having no vote on how your tax dollars are spent???

SOLDIERS IN WAR: Like the rest of Americans, and unlike other territories, D.C. residents have also fought and died in every American war stretching back to the War of 1812. Currently, they have no vote on whether or not their residents get sent to war. Think of screwed up that is alone.

DEMOCRACY: D.C. is the only capital of a democracy IN THE WORLD that is not allowed a vote in their national legislature. Even the people living in Baghdad can vote for a federal representative. In this case, Iraqis have more democracy than America.

CONSTITUTIONAL: The Constitution gives the Congress the power to do whatever it wants with the District. It’s called the “District Clause,” Article 1, Section 8: “To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District.” In 1800, Congress took away voting rights from D.C. using that power. That same power gives them the right to give it back. Conservative thinkers like Kenneth Starr (Clinton impeachment) and Viet Dihn (author of the Patriot Act) have come to the same conclusion. It is fair and will stand. A Constitutional amendment is unnecessary.

NO NET GAIN: Since Utah will also get an extra vote in Congress, there is no net gain for either party. This follows the tradition of introducing states like traditionally Democratic Hawaii and traditionally Republican Alaska at the same time.

FOREIGN POLICY: D.C.’s denial of voting representation has actually impacted America’s ability to carry out foreign policy. Rogue nations with poor human rights records argue that America cannot claim total innocence as they deny voting rights to the residents of their nation’s capital city. This has been an effective tool for countries with horrible records to continue their abuses.

I realize that it is a lot to swallow. But truly, it is time to give the residents of America’s capital the right to vote in Congress.

Anonymous said...

I think, since constitutionality is involved, this is a matter for the Supreme Court to decide, not the congress.

Anonymous said...

Please correct me on the following if I am wrong:

1. In order to have a vote that counts in Congress or the Senate, you have to be a state.

2. In order to be a state, you have to apply for statehood and meet certain criteria, such as population and drafting a state constitution.

3. Your application for statehood hase to be approved by Congress.

4. The District of Columbia has not been approved for statehood, nor has it applied for statehood.

5. The rules for admitting states was part of the Northwest Ordinance of 1789(?) and to date, D.C. has not gone through the procedures to be admitted as a state.

This of course raises a question? Who are these morons that want to give D.C. the right to vote, which would be in direct violation of laws that have ben established and upheld by the courts for over 225 years?

No, no, and once again no. There is NO law to allow this to happen and someone needs to point that out to the busy-bodies proposing this idea.

More importantly, the levels of representation in Congress are set by the Constitution and apply to states admitted to the Union. This means that the clowns wanting to give D.C. the vote are proposing something that is patently UNconstitutional, because D.C. is not a state that has been properly brought into the union.

Pohlitics said...

Q: Who said it?

"This is one of the last chances the Republicans have to be a truly national party."... "I talk to members of Congress about this and they literally walk away, saying the bill is unconstitutional. Unconstitutional? They voted for the Patriot Act!" ... "A presidential veto on this would consign the Republican Party in perpetuity to 8 to 10 percent of the black vote."

A: Jack Kemp, Republican VP Nominee, 1996