Monday, February 16, 2009

DC Voting Rights - Yet One More Reason To Hate Republicans.

Few people outside The Metro Urreah seem aware of this, but the nearly 600,000 residents of the District of Columbia pay among the highest taxes in the nation, live blocks from the White House, and fight for their country in the armed services, yet have virtually no representation on Capitol Hill.

The extent of DC's juice is Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (pictured above), who gets very limited rights in Congress. In her position she is able to serve on and vote with committees, as well as speak from the House floor. However, she is not permitted to vote on final passage of any legislation because she is not a member of Congress. If you're saying to yourself, "big deal, DC ain't a state!", consider the fact that it's sandwiched in the middle of two (MD and VA), and has virtually the same rights as distant places like Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands. I don't even know what the hell the Northern Mariana Islands are, but I do know the President doesn't live there.

Thanks to my excellent public schooling, I didn't even know this until I moved here over a decade ago. Why this hasn't been fixed, considering the fact that we already had one Black President (snicker) in the 90's is beyond me. It should be noted that neither Clinton nor either Bush was in favor of DC voting rights. Now with Obama in office, DC mayor Adrian Fenty kissing his butt, and the Dems controlling both the House and Senate, Chocolate City seems poised to finally get some level of representation.

But of course, there's always gotta be a hater standing in the way, and who else would it be to deny brothas the right to full citizenship other than the GOP?
A Senate committee easily passed a bill yesterday that would give the District its first full seat in the House of Representatives, sending it to the full chamber for a crucial vote expected in the next few weeks or months.

The Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs approved the legislation 11 to 1 at its first business meeting in the new Congress. The lone "no" vote was cast by Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the 2008 Republican presidential nominee.

It's not clear when the legislation will reach the Senate floor for what is likely to be its main showdown. In 2007, a similar bill died in the Senate after falling three votes short of the 60 needed to head off a filibuster. But proponents believe they are in better shape now thanks to Democratic gains in the last election.

"We hope and believe this is our year," said committee Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), a longtime champion of congressional representation for the District. The bill is expected to pass the House, as it did two years ago.

The measure would permanently expand the 435-member House by two seats. One would go to the overwhelmingly Democratic District, and the other to the state next in line to pick up a seat based on population. For the next few years, the seat would go to Utah, which leans Republican.

All nine Democrats at the meeting voted for the legislation; the committee's other Democrat, Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (Hawaii) voted in favor by proxy -- a symbolic way of signaling support. Two of the three Republicans present -- Susan Collins (Maine) and George V. Voinovich (Ohio) -- backed the bill. Three who were absent indicated their opposition in proxy votes: Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.), John Ensign (Nev.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.).

McCain said that the bill violated the Constitution's provision that House representatives be chosen by "the people of the several states," since the District is not a state.

"I think it's unconstitutional," he said. He added, "If the District of Columbia deserves a member of the House of Representatives, they deserve two senators as well."

Many Republicans have been wary that the bill could lead to two D.C. seats in the Senate, which would probably give Democrats a significant boost. The question of constitutionality has elicited differing opinions from legal scholars. If the bill becomes law, it is expected to face an immediate legal challenge.

Democrats hold a 58 to 41 advantage in the Senate. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said she believed the bill had the 60 Senate supporters necessary to overcome a filibuster.

"Our people can virtually taste this vote," she said.
It amazes me to no end that anyone who considers himself a proud American can deny the right to Congressional representation to the very people he passes on the street each day on his way to work. DC isn't some war-won territory, it's a 61 square mile tract of America, and always has been. The fact that the GOP chooses to make this a partisan issue by crying that it gives the Democrats a leg up should DC become the 51st state (which it should!) is downright comical.

"I thought this was America, people!"

So apparently there's nothing wrong with giving DC voting rights, so long as there's some likely Republican seat (ie: the new Congressional district in Utah) created to offset it politically. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me too. And to think the GOP's making ruckus about the d*mn Census being relocated to the White House.

[Editor's Note: Is it just me, or is all the fuss over the Census being taken over by the White House a tactic from the ole' "us vs them" playbook that Americans just overwhelmingly voted against. Good to see Michael Steele's already having such a profound effect on the GOP. And BTW, Steele grew up in the District. He's written op-ed pieces saying DC should get full voting rights and eventually statehood. I see a JC Watts moment in his near future.]

McCain is right, the Republicans should be scared at the prospect of those annoying, tax-paying Negroes in the District wanting two Senate seats if you give them the Congressional seat.

You know what they say. "Give a Negro an inch..."[1]

Either way, I'm just glad some common sense has finally prevailed and some of the folks on Capitol Hill are finally doing the right thing. The Congressional seat is a good start that's past it's time. Statehood will happen in my lifetime. Every American should be proud of this.

Lets just hope they let Chuck Brown write the state song. Now that would be somethin'.

Question: Do you think residents of the District of Columbia deserve full representation on Capitol Hill? How sinister is it that the GOP is against this for purely political reasons? Is the Senate walking a slippery slope that's bound to end up overturned by the Supreme Court since DC isn't technically a state? Would having a 51st state screw up the flag and all sorts of other Americana? How would that go-go state song sound?

Senate Committee Passes DC Rights Bill [WashPost]

[1] You do know what they say, right?

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