D.C. ‘Voting Rights’ Bill Reappears in Congress

January 8, 2009 - 12:05 PM
Bills that didn't pass the last Congress will get another chance this time around, and that includes a bill that would give residents of the District of Columbia a voting member of Congress.
(CNSNews.com) – Deja-vu: Bills that didn’t pass the last Congress will get another chance this time around.
 
The D.C. “voting rights” bill was re-introduced Tuesday in the House by D.C. Delegate  Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and in the Senate by Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
 
The bill would give District of Columbia residents a voting member of Congress, and to balance that extra Democratic seat, heavily Republican Utah would get an extra congressional representative.
 
The bill would bring the total number of U.S. representatives to 437, the first increase in the number of House members in 96 years.
 
"We know from national polls that our bill has broad bi-partisan support from the American people, and we have every reason to believe that we will have the support this year of both houses of Congress and the new president,” said D.C. Delegate Norton.
 
She noted that President-elect Barack Obama was a co-sponsor of the bill when he was in the Senate, and she expects him to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
 
Norton said she is “very encouraged” that “we will see a history-making, bi-partisan increase in democracy for two jurisdictions and for our country."
 
Sen. Lieberman called the bill “vital to the rights of the nearly 600,000 Americans living in the District of Columbia. The righting of this historic wrong is long overdue,” he said.
 
Lieberman noted that D.C. residents have been the “direct target” of a terrorist attack; they have “fought bravely in our many wars,” but they have no vote on how the federal government provides for their security or defense.
 
“It is time to grant a vote to those citizens living in our nation's capital so their voices can be rightfully heard as we debate the great issues of our time," Lieberman said.
 
Opposition to the bill, mainly from Republicans, centers on the fact that it is unconstitutional.
 
The Founding Fathers said the House of Representatives “shall be composed of Members chosen every second year by the People of the several States.” They also set up a federal district as the “seat of government” – an entity distinct from a state. The Constitution gives Congress the power to “lay and collect taxes over such District.”
 
Giving D.C. residents voting representation in Congress should be done by amending the Constitution, not by legislation, Sen. Mitch McConnell argued on the Senate floor in 2007.
 
The D.C Voting Rights Act passed the House in the last Congress, but it was filibustered in the Senate.

For years, the District of Columbia has offered license plates complaining about "taxation without representation."