Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Give D.C. the vote

District residents deserve a real voice in the House. Bush should compromise and drop a veto threat.

June 19, 2007

UNLIKE OTHER Americans who pay federal taxes, the 600,000 residents of the District of Columbia are unable to complain about -- or take satisfaction in -- how their elected representatives spend their money. But legislation that would allow D.C. to stop production of those "Taxation Without Representation" license plates is a step closer to enactment. More important, in advancing legislation that would give the district a vote in the House of Representatives, a Senate committee has provided President Bush with a graceful way to back down from his threat to veto the bill. He ought to take advantage of it.

Last week, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved a proposal already passed by the House that would expand membership of the "people's body" by two, to 437. One of the new seats would go permanently to the District of Columbia, now represented by a nonvoting "delegate." The other would go initially to Utah, which came the closest of the states to an additional seat as a result of the 2000 census.

The ostensible reason for giving Republican-friendly Utah another seat is that otherwise the House membership would be 436 and theoretically subject to a deadlock. The actual reason is to prevent Democrats from gaining an advantage through the enfranchisement of the overwhelmingly Democratic District of Columbia. Such blatant horse-trading removes some of the luster from the political empowerment of D.C. residents. But it's a price that must be paid for what seems the only practical way to give residents of the capital a say in congressional action. An alternative approach -- ceding most of the district to either Virginia or Maryland -- is a nonstarter.

Bush, who is not known for constitutional scruples, is supposedly worried that giving D.C. residents a vote in the House would violate Article I of the Constitution, which says that "the House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states." But the legal issue isn't that simple. Article I also empowers Congress to legislate "in all cases whatsoever" involving the district. The Senate panel took note of this by adding language proposed by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) that would provide for expedited review by the federal courts of the legislation's constitutionality. The panel also adopted a Collins amendment making it clear that a vote for the district in the House wasn't a Trojan horse for representation in the Senate.

Bush signed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law despite constitutional qualms, leaving it to the courts to settle the issue. He should do no less for legislation that would provide a vote in Congress for his own neighbors.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|