Last Thursday, the Senate passed the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009, which gives the District of Columbia a voting member in the House of Representatives and eliminates the position of D.C. Delegate, who represents the District now. Currently, that delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, can only vote when her vote does not affect the outcome; however, she is allowed to introduce bills, and this bill was introduced by Norton. The bill would also give an additional seat to Utah, so that the partisan makeup of the House stayed the same.
S. 160 (formal title: “A bill to provide the District of Columbia a voting seat and the State of Utah an additional seat in the House of Representatives”) was introduced by Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT). The bill passed the Senate in by a vote of 61-37, falling mostly along party lines; however, five Republicans voted for it (Susan Collins [R-ME], Orrin Hatch [R-UT], Dick Lugar [R-IN], Olympia Snowe [R-ME], and Arlen Specter [R-PA]), and two Democrats voted against it (Max Baucus [D-MT] and Robert Byrd [D-WV]).
The bill that passed the Senate had been amended by Senator John Ensign (R-NV). His amendment (S.AMDT. 575) restored several gun rights to the District by repealing the ban on semiautomatic weapons, the registration requirement, the ban on handgun ammunition, and several other laws. That amendment passed 62-36.
Personally, I am ashamed of the Senate for passing this bill (although I’m glad that gun rights have been restored to the District). Apparently 61 of our Senators need to go back to eighth grade civics class!
This act is clearly unconstitutional! Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution says, “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States.” Washington, D.C. is not a state-it’s just that simple.
Furthermore, Norton never should have been allowed to introduce this bill. She is unconstitutionally in the House of Representatives. Section 2 of Article I also says, “No Person shall be a Representative who shall not … be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.” Norton is not an inhabitant of a STATE, and thus should not be able to introduce legislation in the House!
I am all for the representation of D.C. in Congress; however, this bill is not the way to do that. If D.C. really was Constitutionally allowed to have a representative, they wouldn’t need a law to get their representation – all they’d need to do is file a court case. Furthermore, if they deserve representation, why don’t they deserved 2 Senators as well?
If the House passes this bill and President Obama signs it, this bill would probably be the most blatantly unconstitutional law ever written. At least when President Bush violated the Constitution, he did so in ways that were debatable as to whether or not he actually violated the Constitution, but this bill takes Article I, Section 1 and says, “That’s not an important part of the Constitution.” Find me any time that President Bush DIRECTLY violated the Constitution – he didn’t. The violations of the 4th Amendment were debatable. I personally think that he violated the 4th Amendment, but there are ways that you could argue that he did not; however, with this bill, nobody with an ounce of sanity can argue that this is Constitutional!
Does anybody else find it ironic that the same Senators who complained about President Bush’s debatably unconstitutional laws just voted in favor of a law that directly and clearly goes against the very wording of the Constitution? Come on!
Proponents of the bill claim that the “District Clause” (Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution) allows for the Congress to give D.C. a Representative. The text of that clause reads, “[The Congress shall have Power] To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District … as may … become the Seat of the Government of the United States.”
“Exclusive Legislation” only gives Congress the right to govern the District, not magically ignore Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution when it comes to the District.
This bill is blatantly unconstitutional, and those who voted for it and criticized the Bush administration ought to be ashamed of themselves. Fortunately the Supreme Court still respects the Constitution, and I am willing to bet that they will declare this unconstitutional in a heartbeat – in fact, I really don’t see any of the 9 Justices siding with the Senate. If they do, they are shaming the Constitution and the office of Justice of the Supreme Court!
Even my liberal roommate agrees – this bill is CLEARLY unconstitutional!