In 2007, the 600,000 disenfranchised residents of Washington, DC werejust three votes shy of overcoming aRepublican filibuster and passing legislation to givethem a voting representative in Congress for the first time. OnTuesday, the House took up the fight to strengthen our democracy onceagain, as Congressman Jerry Nadler chaired the Subcommittee on theConstitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties hearing on the “Districtof Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009.”
The room was packed with citizens from the District–so many werethere that they were ushered to a spillover room down the corridor whereproceedings could be viewed on closed-circuit TV. The Mayor of DC,Adrian Fenty, was on hand even though he wasn’t a witness, as wasCongresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.
There were a slew of witnesses advocating for this bill–as thereshould be for something so key to our forming a more perfect union–including: Majority Leader Steny Hoyer; former Republican CongressmanTom Davis; President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, WadeHenderson; US Army Guard Captain and Bronze Star recipient–and nativeof the District of Columbia — Yolanda Lee; and Viet Dinh, an AssistantAttorney General under that guy who thankfully is back in Crawford. Also entered into the record were letters of support from twenty-five leadingconstitutional scholars and Judge Kenneth Starr–yes, that KennethStarr.
Hoyer told the subcommittee he intends to bring the bill to the floorfor a vote “in the very near term.”
“Out of all the world’s democracies,” Hoyer said, “Washington DC… isthe only capitol in the free world whose citizens do not have a votingmember in their Parliament. This bill is about setting that blightright… As our nation’s story tells us again and again, a vote meansdignity.”
Republican opponents of this bill–all of whom claimed that theysupport voting representation for District residents–said thatCongress can’t give the District a seat in the House because theConstitution says that is reserved for representatives of states. Former Congressman Davis pointed out that by that logic the federalgovernment wouldn’t be able to tax District residents because it isn’t astate; District residents wouldn’t have a right to a jury trial; andCongress wouldn’t be able to regulate the District as part of interstatecommerce.