There has long been argument about the fact that residents of Washington, D.C. are being taxed by the federal government while at the same time not having representation in Congress. The motto “Taxation Without Representation” is available on D.C. license plates. Congressional bills have been introduced, but not passed, which would allow D.C. to have voting representatives in both the House and the Senate. However, there are constitutional questions involved.
In his article “Let Them Into the House“, Slate writer Richard Hasen reviews the arguments, and challenges the Congress to pass such a bill in order to force the Supreme Court into a ruling against it, which he predicts will in turn force the Obama Administration into proposing a Constitutional Amendment that would allow representatives from D.C. to vote.
Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution provides that “[t]he House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states …” and there’s no question that Washington, D.C., is not a state. Congress cannot amend the Constitution through ordinary legislation simply by calling D.C. a “state,” and therefore the D.C. act is ostensibly unconstitutional. Supporters like Turley have backed up their arguments with extensive historical analysis based on the Framers’ intent in giving the District of Columbia its odd status.
The lack of voting rights for residents of Washington, D.C., is an example of what law professors call “constitutional stupidities.” Given this country’s commitment to equal voting rights for all, there’s no legitimate policy reason to deny congressional representation to the District’s residents. If that’s right, then the only argument I can see against a vote for the D.C. bill is that it could be viewed as violating the oath taken by members of Congress and the president to uphold the Constitution. But with legitimate arguments by credible legal scholars in favor of the bill, the constitutional question is not settled. Members of Congress can vote for D.C. voting rights in good conscience. Then we’ll see what happens next.
I, for one, am sympathetic to the residents of D.C. They are truly victims of”constitutional stupidity”, and it has gone on for too long. It’s time to fix this travesty, and allow them the same representation the rest of the country enjoys.