The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States … No Person shall be a Representative who shall not … when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

- Article I of the United States Constitution

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution.

- Article VI of the United States Constitution

For all of its many ambiguities, on the matter of whether the residents of the District of Columbia can vote in the House of Representatives, the United States Constitution is crystal clear: no. In 2000 the United States District Court for the District of Columbia affirmed this truth, writing: “The Constitution does not contemplate that the District may serve as a state for purposes of the apportionment of congressional representatives.” The Supreme Court later affirmed that decision.

Despite the clarity of the law, Senate leaders have scheduled a vote today on S. 160, which would create two new seats in the House of Representatives and give one of them to the District of Columbia. The new fig leaf the left is using to push this blatantly unconstitutional measure is the argument that Art.1 sec. 8′s grant to Congress to exercise “exclusive Legislation” over the District, gives them the power to grant the District a seat in the House. Heritage fellow Hans von Spakovsky exposes how specious this claim is:

The Constitution’s provision giving Congress the power to run the affairs of the District of Columbia — the seat of the nation’s capitol — doesn’t wipe out other parts of the document. Congress could not, for example, restrict the First Amendment rights of District residents.

Furthermore, the very same section of the Constitution also applies to “Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards” and other federal properties. But it would be ridiculous to assert, on the basis of that text, that Congress has the power to award House seats to an army base, federal office building, or Navy pier.

Conservatives are not alone in pointing out what a blatant violation of the Constitution S. 160 would be. Liberal constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley writes:

It would be ridiculous to suggest that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention or ratification conventions would have worked out such specific and exacting rules for the composition of Congress, only to give the majority of Congress the right to create a new form of voting members from federal enclaves like the District. It would have constituted the realization of the worst fears for many delegates, particularly Anti-Federalists, to have an open-ended ability of the majority to manipulate the rolls of Congress and to use areas under the exclusive control of the federal government as the source for new voting members.

Some Senators appear to believe they can in good conscience vote for explicitly unconstitutional legislation if they include a provision in the bill that allows a Member of Congress to challenge the law in court. But such a provision would only clear statutory standing. Any plaintiff would also have to muster constitutional standing and as Heritage scholars Andrew Grossman and Nathaniel Ward detail, Congress has the power to play political games with voting in the House to prevent such a suit from ever happening.

Members of Congress take an oath to defend the Constitution. This makes them duty bound to oppose any legislation that is unconstitutional. It would be black eye on the entire Congress if they chose political expediency over their solemn promise to the American people.

Quick Hits:

  • Just as he begins to dole out a record $787 billion deficit spending economic stimulus package, President Barack Obama said Monday, “We cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences.
  • The House leadership rolled out a new $410 billion spending bill that adds another $20.5 billion over 2008 spending levels.
  • The House spending bill also includes $3.8 billion worth of funding for Congressional pet projects that President Obama has pledged to trim from future budgets.
  • The Obama Administration changed the terms of its emergency aid to troubled financial firms to set the stage for the government nationalizing some of the country’s largest banks.
  • The number of illegal immigrants in the USA fell for the first time in at least four years, as the nation’s tough economy discouraged people from sneaking into the USA.