The 51st State???

Last Thursday, the United States Senate voted to violate the Constitution of the United States. By passing the DC Voting Rights Act by a vote of 61-37, the Senate approved a bill that purports to give a member of the House of Representatives to the District of Columbia (along with another member for Utah). This would all be well and good if it were not for one small detail – Section 2 of Article I of the Constitution. According to this provision of the Constitution, “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second year by the People of the several States” (emphasis added).

There is no argument as to whether Washington, DC is a state. It is not and all members of Congress agree that it is not. Why then would the Senate feel that it should pass a bill that is in direct conflict to the express words of the supreme law of the land? That’s an excellent question to which I have no specific answer. I can only conclude that the members of the Senate feel that they are the, in fact, the supreme law of the land and, therefore, the Constitution, as a “living / breathing document”, can mean different things at different times to different people. If DC wasn’t a state on Wednesday, we can make it a state on Thursday, just because we think it should be. No muss, no fuss. Whatever we say goes!

Long ago, we the people allowed Congress to pass laws that were, to be generous, extra-constitutional. In their times, there were valid arguments as to whether the Federal Reserve Act, the Federal Employers’ Contribution Act (the act establishing Social Security) and the Medicare Act had a constitutional basis because none of these are specifically enumerated in the Constitution. However, they were not clearly prohibited by the plain language of the Constitution. As with most things regarding government, it engages in “mission creep”. Now that there are no longer objections to those things that are not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, why not go on to things that are expressly prohibited, like giving a member of the House of Representative to an entity that isn’t a state. By this logic, the Northern Mariana Islands should have a member too.

Section 8 of Article I of the Constitution grants to Congress the authority to establish a federal capital. The framers recognized the need for an independent federal capital. Following the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783, in which a mob of angry soldiers attacked Congress, the founding fathers realized that the federal government must be in a position to attend to its own security. It should never be in a position to have to rely on any individual state for protection.
James Madison expounded on this in Federalist No. 43. Madison emphasized the need for a national capital free from the influence of any state, not only so that the federal government would ensure its own maintenance and safety, but also so that federal government would not be subject to political pressure from a state government.

Those in favor of the DC Voting Rights Act claim that the residents of Washington are being subjected to taxation without representation. Even if this mattered so as to make this act constitutional, it is, of course, not true. DC residents have the right to vote for President. Additionally, any adult resident of Washington who feels that his life would improve if he were represented by a member of the House is free to move just across the border and live in Maryland or Virginia. Each of those states sends duly authorized members to the House of Representatives. Also, Washingtonians elect a Delegate to the House of Representatives who is given a staff, can sponsor legislation, vote in committee and speak on the floor, just like any other member of the House.

In Federalist No. 43, Madison considers the issue of representation for residents of the new federal capital. He reminds us that the land for the federal district will be ceded with the consent of the state legislature from which the land will come. Madison also points out that Congress will establish a municipal legislature for local purposes derived from the suffrage of those who live in the federal district. That would be known today as the DC City Counsel, which brought us the adventures of Mayor Marion Berry.

Unfortunately, the founding fathers would no longer recognize our republic as it is today. It is time for We the People to stand up to the Senate and say that they can no longer violate the Constitution. We are a nation that lives by the words of this founding document. For our elected representatives to so cavalierly disregard it, all of our rights are in jeopardy.

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