Last year, Congress rejected legislation that would violate the Constitution by granting the District of Columbia voting representation in the House of Representatives. But advocates of this plan haven’t given up hope. Instead, voting rights activists have stepped up their lobbying efforts, and Roll Call reported last week that they may be about to secure a major victory:
Washington, D.C., voting rights advocates expect to be able to more openly lobby for representation in the House next year, using money from the District budget.
A step forward came Tuesday, when the D.C. Council approved a $500,000 budget for DC Vote, an advocacy group that heads up the effort to grant the city a full vote in the House.
Of course, the city’s fiscal 2009 budget still has to pass Congress and the actual money isn’t new or surprising — the nonprofit has received two such appropriations since 2006.
But for the first time, the group will likely be able to use the money to actually lobby its cause rather than just lecture on the unbiased facts. That’s because Congress is expected to jettison a rider that in the past has prohibited the use of city funds to lobby for full representation in Congress.
Voting rights advocates have a point: it isn’t fair that District residents do not have a say in the national legislature. This arrangement is at odds with the principle of consent of the governed, as Matthew Spalding, director of Heritage’s Simon Center for American Studies, argued last year:
Regardless, the remedy must remain within the bounds of the Constitution. The nation’s highest law limits representation in Congress to states alone, and the District is not a state. The Constitution calls for a District, ceded by the states, to “become the seat of the government of the United States.” It further holds that Congress shall “exercise exclusive legislation” over the nation’s capital, underscoring the point that the jurisdiction cannot be a state or part of a state.
D.C. Vote continues to push for granting representation “through simple legislation,” and hopes to do so with Congress’ blessing. But members of Congress should look beyond this sort of well-meaning rhetoric and keep in mind that the District of Columbia exists to serve a Constitutional purpose. They should also remember that there are several ways to grant representation without running afoul of the nation’s highest law, such as a Constitutional amendment explicitly granting representation.