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Real Clear Politics is reporting that the DC representation bill is dead for this session of Congress. 

While I am pleased this bill is dead, I am not pleased that DC hs no representation.  Many years ago as a YAF leader I opposed the constitutional amendment that would have given the District two senators and a congressman.  I am profoundly sorry for that opposition.  It was shortsided and partisan. 

But a bill cannot violate the Constitution.  The original Constitution does not allow a vote for DC.  I realize that Dean Kenneth Starr supports this bill and believes it is legal based on the provision that gives Congress the power to “…exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such district…” (Article I, Section 8, paragraph 17)  Who am I to disagree with Judge Starr?  But I must.  The text does not support it: 

“The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several States, and the electors in each State shall have the qualififcations of the most numerous branch of the State legislative.”  (Article I, Section 2, paragraph 1) 

In paragraph 3 of the same article and section, the various states are allocated representatives.  Not one for any district set up by Congress.

“Several States” has been interpreted by many statutes and some court decisions to include DC but that does not authorize voting rights for representation.  I cannot read the Constitution to give power to Congress to authorize the district it set up to have voting rights in Congress.  Certainly a non-voting delegate.  Not a representative.  Orrin Hatch opposed it even though the bill adds a representative to his state.  The bill would have caused Utahns to have two votes for Congress – one for a representative and one at-large representative. 

I do believe that DC should have two senators and at least one representative.  But it must be by constitutional amendment not ordinary legislation.  Let’s start that process and make it bipartisan.

The reason the bill died is gun politics.  There was a rider striking down the strict DC gun law.  I cannot let it go without this comment from Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA):

“I believe the District will become much less safe, and the opportunity for criminals, mentally unstable persons and juveniles to purchase weapons will increase dramatically,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement, adding she would vote against the bill if it repeals D.C.’s firearms laws.

With all due respect to Senator Feinstein, criminals can always get guns.  They get them illegally.  That’s the problem with DC and most cities.  They have areas dangerous to walk through and live in.  Because law-abiding people have guns?  No.  Anti-gun laws tend to hurt law-abiding citizens rather than criminals by preventing self-defense.  Guns in the right hands will make DC safer.

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)


  1. cargosquid says:

    DC should not be a state. However, I’ve always liked the bill that would have allowed the residents of DC to vote in MD Congressional elections. If its taxation without representation, remove all federal taxes from the District on the residents of DC. NOT counting politicians.

    Then, give them a choice.

  2. citizenw says:

    Actually, the real issue goes beyond “Taxation Without Representation”, to encompass all that “Governed Without Consent” implies. So removing taxation from DC residents does little if anything to resolve the incongruity and inconsistency that results from denying the application of a central premise of American government to the people living in the capital of the Nation.


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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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