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March 17, 2007

White House Opposes D.C. Vote Bill

by Doug Mataconis

The White House Made it fairly clear yesterday that it opposes the latest effort to give the District of Columbia a vote on the house floor:

The White House declared its opposition yesterday to a bill that would give the District its first full seat in the House of Representatives, saying it is unconstitutional, and a key Senate supporter said such concerns could kill the measure.

“The Constitution specifies that only ‘the people of the several states’ elect representatives to the House,” said White House spokesman Alex Conant. “And D.C. is not a state.”

He declined to say whether President Bush would veto the bill, but the White House appeared to be sending a message to Congress just as momentum for the measure was building. It cleared two House committees this week, and the Democratic leadership has vowed to pass it on the House floor next week.

The bill seeks to increase the House permanently to 437 seats, from 435. In a bipartisan compromise, one seat would go to the overwhelmingly Democratic District, which has a nonvoting delegate in the House. The other would go to the next state in line to pick up a seat based on the 2000 Census: Utah, which leans Republican.

Several Republican House members assailed the bill this week, noting that the Constitution reserves representation for residents of states, not districts. Supporters countered with a section of the Constitution known as the “District Clause,” which gives Congress sweeping powers over the city. Legal scholars have disagreed over who is right.

The bill’s advocates knew that the White House had constitutional concerns. But Conant said the White House hadn’t formally opposed the bill until it had cleared the Judiciary Committee on Thursday and was headed for the House floor. “We had not taken a position until after the committee vote,” he said.

The White House’s position, of course, is, as I wrote earlier this week, completely correct. Furthermore, the idea that the District Clause somehow supersedes the Constitution’s clear requirement that only state’s have the right to have a vote in Congress is just absurd.

Despite the clear Constitutional problems with this bill, it made it through the House Judiciary Committee and will clearly succeed in a full vote on the House floor. It’s fate in the Senate, however, is far from certain:

Supporters of the measure have anticipated a difficult fight in the Senate, where few Republicans have embraced it. The bill’s sponsors, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), have pinned their hopes on the Republican senators from Utah, believing they could persuade colleagues to pass it.

But both Utah senators indicated yesterday that the bill could be in trouble. A spokeswoman for Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R) said he continues to support it. However, “based on the constitutional concerns raised by the White House and others in Congress, it may be difficult to get the 60 votes to move this bill,” said the spokeswoman, Emily Christensen, referring to the threshold necessary to avoid a filibuster.

If it does, though, the last test will be what the President does. Hopefully, he will have the sense and courage to veto this unconstitutional mess.

Originally Posted at Below The Beltway


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8 Comments

  1. Well, any way to disenfranchise people. If DC was full of white people, this would have been an atrocity the likes of which the world would have NEVER EVER EVER EVER seen and the cries would go up to high heaven to correct this unfortunate injustice.. now that it is the descendants of slaves and servants who made up the majority of the District from the early times, it is a-okay to shaft them while invading other countries in the name of FREEDUMB

    D.C. was an artificial construct to begin with. A bunch of representatives (white slave owners to begin with) came together here and the majority of the population here was likely to stay slaves and servants so why give the area the right to vote?

    even now? why give 1 congressional seat worth of voters the right to vote? don’t them “negroes” have enough already? I mean what else do they want? A RIGHT TO VOTE? in the “DISTRICT” or columbia? I mean.. don’t they know it is a DISTRICT and not a STATE? I mean we can take Hawaii from the lulu’s and give it the right to vote.. but not the niggiz from DC.. why should we? we won’t. period. RIGHT?????

    Why don’t you come right out and state your intentions clearly sir, instead of pussyfooting around the issue and claiming “distrcits can’t be states ” etc.

    You found a way to digest a whole continent after stealing it from the indians.. but you find it too hard to give the right to vote to the blacks in D.C. Just make shit up and call it the law. That’s the way to do it.

    Comment by friendly stranger — March 17, 2007 @ 8:12 am
  2. You know, I’ve got no problem with this. As long as they do it right.

    How do they do it right? By Constitutional Amendment. It just shows you how Congress doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the Constitution that they think they can just pass this as a law. Sadly, the Supreme Court may let them slide on it (as they did with McCain-Feingold).

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — March 17, 2007 @ 9:31 am
  3. You know the best solution would be for the residents to move to Virginia and Maryland and take all that “urbaness” with them.

    Comment by VRB — March 17, 2007 @ 9:40 am
  4. Brad,
    It would have been better if the president or the White House had issue a statement saying something like you said. Maybe it would look like the administration gave a damn about rights of citizens.

    If the district was to remain a federal district why did the congress allow it to become a city; or did they think blacks would never have full citizenship, so it didn’t matter anyway. DC could have used all that space to build the offices that now are in Maryland. I think the constitution probably had already been violated in that respect.

    Comment by VRB — March 17, 2007 @ 10:07 am
  5. “If it does, though, the last test will be what the President does. Hopefully, he will have the sense and courage to veto this unconstitutional mess.”

    Why would such a veto be courageous? Wouldn’t this be an example of Bush playing to his base? By that I mean those that just don’t like the idea of a city that voted 90% for Kerry in the 2004 election having Congressional representation.

    Wouldn’t a more courageous act be to let the US Supreme Court decide on the constitutionality, even if displeases his base? That is, after all, its role under separation of powers.

    Moreover, I’m not sure if WH policy has always been to support bills that are clearly constitutional, and oppose bills that may not be. Didn’t Bush support the Partial Birth Abortion Ban? Is that clearly constitutional?

    Comment by AltHippo — March 17, 2007 @ 10:31 am
  6. Brad got it right, “It just shows you how Congress doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the Constitution that they think they can just pass this as a law.”

    When the rule of law means nothing so do the laws.

    Comment by T F Stern — March 17, 2007 @ 10:55 am
  7. AltHippo,

    Bush tried that with McCain-Feingold. He said he believed it was unconstitutional but decided to pass it anyway. Then the Supreme Court said infringing on freedom of speech is not a problem.

    Bush took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. Not that he’s actually done that, well, EVER… Nor would this be the best place to start from a public relations perspective. But that still doesn’t mean he should pass a blatantly unconstitutional measure such as this.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — March 17, 2007 @ 11:40 am
  8. Sad how little our people know about our history. The reason that DC was not given the vote was not because they wanted to disenfranchise minorities. As a matter of fact DC had a majority white population for over a hundred years.

    DC was not allowed a vote in Congress because at that time the States had real power (remember this was before Lincoln and FDR). It was believed that as a State it would be able to wield power over the others.

    If this were about “representation” then DC could be folded back into Maryland which produces a Democrat congressional contingent anyway. This is about producing another pair of Democrat Senators and some Democrat Congressman. This is not about so-called “liberals” caring about the little man but those very same people attempting to increase their group’s political power.

    Comment by Marshall — March 18, 2007 @ 7:34 am

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