At first glance today’s article might seem fairly inconsequential-a bill passed through a Senate committee and will now move on to the full Senate. But, it’s actually huge news. The District of Columbia currently does not have a voting member in the House of Representatives, just a non-voting representative in the House who can sit on committees and speak on the floor (nothing at all in the Senate). There are quite a few good reasons why DC and its tax-paying, voting citizens should have representation in Congress :
- Consent of the governed-every one, even people who leave the U.S. can vote for people to represent them in Congress, except for people living in DC
- Tax reasons-DC citizens have to pay the same amount of federal taxes as residents of other states. Territories like Guam and Puerto Rico also have non-voting delegates in Congress, but their citizens aren’t subject to all U.S. taxes. DC residents paid $20.4 billion in taxes, higher than 19 other states.
- Constitutional law–well this argument would probably appear that it’s unconstitutional for Congress to give voting rights to DC since it’s not a state. Oops. Nevermind.
- Population–DC has more people than Wyoming. But people in Wyoming mostly vote for Republicans, while people in DC mostly vote for Democrats, so you do the math.
There’s also quite a few interesting solutions to address the situation:
- make DC a state
- grant DC representation through legislation (the current strategy)
- amend the Constitution to allow DC to have Congressional representation without statehood
- reunite DC with Maryland thereby making DC residents part of a state with representation. DC was originally created from ceded parts of Virginia and Maryland. Virginia got their part back in 1846, so that’s why DC is sort of a square but not really. (Full disclosure: I lived in DC for 9 months and in Maryland for 2 years, 2 months and can confirm that it’s not at all surprising that Virginia took back their part, they’re jerks. But people in DC don’t want to be Maryland residents either because like Virginia, there’s this whole other part of the state that’s not near DC and they aren’t very cool. For example, Rich Steele (aka the new RNC chair) was our Lieutenant Governor when I was there. Fun times.)
A similar bill, to permanently expand the House of Representatives, passed the House in 2007 but died in the Senate. And yes, Mitch McConnell was totally unhelpful in this effort to do something useful-shocking I know. It seems like there is support for the Bill this year, not least of all because President Obama was the co-sponsor in 2007 and still supports it. But one question remains, if the bill ultimately passes, what license plate could top this?