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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A Rep for DC?

I have been sort of following the issue of a real Representative for the District of Columbia in the US House of Representatives, but not closely.  I wondered if it would be Constitutional, but haven't jumped into it.

Today The Hill has a piece on the NRA quietly muscling the House of Representatives to go with the Senate version of the Bill in order to allow language that would amend DC gun policies.  I would read that as conform to Heller.

The Bill would provide for an increase in the membership of the House of Representatives, from 425 to 427.  One seat would go to DC and one would go to the State of Utah.  That was interesting.

The actual size of the House of Representatives is determined by Congress.  Article 1, Section 3, Clause 3 lays it out.  There must be no more than one Representative for every 30,000 people, with each state having at least one.  Today it is one for every 600,000.  Adding Representatives makes the body more unwieldy.  On the other hand, adding Representatives makes them closer to the People, like our State Reps are.

But, the larger issue is the question of if it is even Constitutional to give DC a voting Representative in the US House.  Here is Law Professor Ann Althouse's take:
Shredding the Constitution. It's not just for the Bush administration anymore.
The link in Professor Althouse's post was to a Washington Post story of 27 February on the Senate vote on this issue.

The Wash Post article notes that
The voting-rights bill was the first such measure to pass the Senate since 1978, when Congress approved a constitutional amendment that would have given the District a House representative and two senators.  That amendment failed to win enough support from the states.
That makes it obvious that 30 years ago the People of these United States were not in favor of such an action.  Now we have the US Congress trying an end run. If a constitutional amendment was the proper path 30 years ago, it is the proper path today.

If the Bill passes the next issue will be if this is constitutional.  Going back to the Wash Post,
Opponents of the current bill said it violated the constitutional provision that House representatives should be chosen by the "people of the several states."  Since the District is not a state, its inhabitants don't qualify for representation, they said.

"The Constitution is short because its authors wanted it to be clear," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.).  He added: "It could not have been more so" on the issue of House representation.
My own preference for answering the charge of "Taxation Without Representation," as the DC license plates say, would be to end Federal Taxation for legitimate residents of DC.

In the previous paragraph, note the word "legitimate."  I would not include members of Congress.  I would not include people who "maintain a residence," but who spend most of their time elsewhere.  But, the full time residents of DC should go free from Federal Taxes, based upon the fact that they are not allowed to have Senators and a Representative.

The idea of a Federal Tax free space must be treated with care.  One of the things that needs to be guarded against is the aggressive gentrification of DC Southeast.  Pushing long time residents (read Blacks) out to allow people from Maryland and Virginia (read Whites) to move in and take advantage of the tax rule would be wrong.  While, over the long haul, that can't be helped, in the short term, where people could be financially hurt, actions should be taken to ensure that this opportunity is not exploited.  How?  I don't know.  But, I am thinking about it.

Regards  --  Cliff

1 comment:

Craig H said...

The proposal to add 2 Senators for DC was ludicrous, and a proposal to add 1 Representative is only incrementally less so. I'd observe that Congress is organized to represent the citizens of the United States, (not special districts and territories and protectorates), and this is something that shouldn't be altered. DC's special status, however, being completely outside the constitution, would seem more open for discussion.

I would agree we should be open to arrangements that ensure representation for the citizens of DC. I should think it well within their power and discretion to petition for incorporation into one of the contiguous states, where their population could be factored into proper Congressional representation.

However, asking for freebies not enjoyed by other small jurisdictions, like their own private Senatorial delegation, or even incremental additions to the House, is not reasonable.