Politics, The Constitution, And Voting Rights For D.C.by Doug Mataconis
There is a small, but increasingly vocal, group of Republicans who have spoken out in favor of the bill currently pending before the Senate that would give the District of Columbia a vote in the House of Representatives. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the chief sponsors of the bill in the House was a Republican, Tom Davis of Virginia, and 22 of his fellow Republicans voted with him. In the Senate, Orrin Hatch, and apparently his collegue from Utah Robert Bennett, have announced support for the Senate version of the bill.
And, now, apparently, Jack Kemp is prowling the halls of Congress arguing in favor of the bill:
Several Republicans who have switched sides on D.C. voting rights in recent weeks said that Kemp persuaded them to focus on this as the premier civil rights question of the day.
“I would like someday for African Americans to feel more at home in the Republican Party than they have in the past 70 years,” said Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana. “I cannot believe the Founders intended to deny 550,000 Americans representation.”
They didn’t. Frankly, they never really intended for the Federal City to become a major metropolitan area to begin with. Certainly, outside of the so-called Federal Core in downtown D.C., most of the city is engaged in business that has little to do with actually running (as opposed to influencing) the Federal Government. That’s why retrocession of the non-Federal parts of the city to Maryland is what ultimiately makes the most sense.
What the Founders certaintly didn’t intend, though, is for legislators to ignore the Constitution, which is exactly what Kemp and Davis are asking them to do:
Kemp points to Republican opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act as the moment when his party lost the bulk of its black support, and he warns against a repeat performance. “Members say, ‘Well, black people in L.A. don’t care about this,’ ” Kemp says of his conversations with lawmakers. “Let me tell you, African Americans know that Washington, D.C., is a majority-black city with an African American mayor. This is one of the last chances the Republicans have to be a truly national party.”
Jack, you’ve been preaching this gospel for almost 30 years now. And yet every single good idea you had, from tax cuts to enterprise zones, was shot down by the Democratic Party. Why, then, are you playing into their hands now ? Do you really think that giving D.C. a vote in Congress is going to attract more African-Americans to the Republican Party ? If you do, you’re kidding yourself.
For the many Republicans who still believe that the Constitution poses an impassable barrier, Davis has one plea: Let the courts decide. And he has a delicious tool of persuasion, a strongly argued brief in favor of the constitutionality of a D.C. vote written by former special prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr and law professor Viet D. Dinh, who helped write the USA Patriot Act. Both are conservative scholars who draw deep respect from Republicans.
“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!” Kemp says. “A presidential veto on this would consign the Republican Party in perpetuity to 8 to 10 percent of the black vote.”
So for the sake of a few votes, Jack Kemp is willing to sacrifice the Constitution and convince legislators to vote for something they know to be unconstitutional. It makes one wonder just what kind of Republican Party will be left when he’s done.
Originally posted at Below The Beltway