Opinion

Read the Constitution: D.C. is not a state

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Which part of Article I, Section 2 do proponents of the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009 not comprehend? The Constitution of the United States clearly states that “the House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states.” The Constitution created D.C. as the federal “seat of government” – not as a state. Therefore, D.C. cannot have a voting Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Proponents are correct that the Constitution gives Congress the right to make all laws for the District. But that clearly does not permit Congress to substitute its will for that of the whole people to rewrite the Constitution. So, until the Constitution is amended to make D.C. a state, creating a voting representative for it as if it were a state would be “the most premeditatedly unconstitutional act by Congress in decades," in the words of George Washington Law School professor Jonathan Turley.

The District of Columbia’s (Non-voting) Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton sponsors the bill in the House, while its major backers in the Senate are Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. Norton, of course, is playing the demagogue on this issue for the “folks back home,” but Hatch and Lieberman should know better. The latter has shown great courage in recent years by opposing efforts by liberal Democrats in Congress to undercut U.S. troops in Iraq. He should summon similar courage to fight efforts by many of the same liberal Democrats to undercut the Constitution by giving D.C. a voting representative.

Hatch really should know better. Utah is among the nation’s most consistently conservative states, and many of its residents pride themselves for their support of the Constitution. Their support is in great part due to the immense respect accorded the nation’s founding document by the Church of Latter-Day Saints or Mormons. There is even a Mormon tradition that the day will come when the Constitution hangs by a thread and a Mormon official bravely steps forward to rescue it. So it is doubly disturbing to see Hatch, a former Mormon bishop, pushing unconstitutional legislation that would otherwise go nowhere without his backing. Have even Utah Republicans come to so disrespect the Constitution that they would forsake its timeless words for a venal political deal that gives them another House seat? Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, has the honest solution: Either exempt District residents from federal taxation, or ask the people of the whole United States to amend the Constitution to declare the District a state. Otherwise, why have the Constitution in the first place?

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