4 February 2009: DC Representation in Congress
Half a million taxpaying U.S. citizens in this country lack voting representation in the U.S. Congress. The issue concerns representation by one person who currently attends House sessions and is allowed to vote at the committee level, Eleanor Holmes Norton. The District citizenry refer to her as Congresswoman Norton.
On January 27, HR 157, which would correct this injustice, was discussed by the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Constitution.
Because the District's three electoral votes are always Democratic, the House has already determined that additional representation would be provided to the Republican state of Utah. But this representative would be "at large," rather than district-based, which would thus grant each Utah congressional district two representatives.
Analogously, DC Delegate Norton would retain her right to vote at the committee level along with voting as DC representative.
Wouldn't redistricting in Utah be more effective, in that it is done throughout the country regularly, mainly motivated by partisan considerations?
One subcommittee member told his colleagues that he planned to introduce legislation that would relieve District residents of the onus of paying federal income taxes. The motto on DC license plates is "taxation without representation," a line that Bush 43 had removed from the "USA 1" tag of his official limousine, a Cadillac.
It is easy to imagine that the idea of income tax relief elicited enthusiastic applause from the overflow crowd that attended the subcommittee hearing.
In this particular situation, unlike others, Bush 43 was upholding the U.S. Constitution A member of the audience attending the subcommittee hearing, a professor from George Washington University, noted that HR 147 violated our sacred document, which specifies that "the District is not to be considered a state except in cases related to individual rights such as those enshrined in the Bill of Rights."
To avoid Supreme Court involvement and the resulting expenditure of unnecessary time, a constitutional amendment is therefore needed. An alternative, another professor continued, would be retrocession, a move that would relocate the District back into the state of Maryland, where it was until 1790.
The amendment would require an assenting vote from two-thirds of Congress and three-quarters of the states.
The companion bill in the Senate to HR 157 was introduced by Sen. Joseph Liebermann on January 6 as S. 160, identical to 157 except that Lieberman would do away with Ms. Norton's no-longer-necessary function as DC delegate. She would become officially Congresswoman Norton, as DC residents have anticipated.
The most prominent representative present at the subcommittee hearing, House majority leader Steny Hoyer, recommended bringing HR 157 to the House floor based on the principle that residents of this federal territory are being taxed without representation, period. Here he is referring back to our Constitution's predecessor, the Declaration of Independence.
Certainly, HR 157 is not the first bill introduced in Congress to allow federal representation to the District. However, with such a marked Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, it is understandable that this latest attempt was introduced in the House a scant week after President Obama was inaugurated. Mr. Lieberman introduced his version even sooner. Score one for this benighted Democrat.