I got a chuckle this morning from the weekly mailing from the PCUSA’s Washington Office. In it, we are urged to “send a message in support of voting rights” to our Senators regarding a bill to give the District of Columbia a voting member of the House of Representatives. The e-mail says:
Despite the fact that they pay federal taxes, serve on juries and defend our Nation in times of war like most other Americans, the residents of the District of Columbia are barred from having voting representation on the floor of the U.S. House or Senate. This classic example of “taxation without representation” is contrary to everything that this nation is founded on. This means that more than half a million people, more than 57% of whom are African American (with Caucasians making up just over 30% of the population and 8.5% of the residents claiming Hispanic background), are paying money to and dying for a government in which they have no say. It also means that the federal government is receiving and spending $4 billion without having to account for it.
Actually, this nation was founded precisely on the principle that the seat of government should not itself be involved in partisan politics, which is why a constitutional amendment was necessary to give DC three electoral votes. No one is forced to live in the District (indeed, the founders envisioned that few other than those involved directly in governance would), so that their representational status is a matter of choice, rather than tyrannical denial. The reference to the racial makeup of the District is irrelevent except as a play on liberal guilt, and the reference to the taxes paid by District residents is a joke: the District gets back $5.55 for every dollar in federal tax paid, more than twice as much as any state (for comparison, New Jersey, ranked last, gets 61¢ back for every dollar that goes to the feds). That illustrates why the claim of “taxation without representation is bogus–the Constitution’s framers’ plan was for Congress as a whole to represent the District (where, remember, not many people would live other than government types from somewhere else), which, based on the money spent there, they seem to do quite nicely, thanks very much.
To begin to correct this gross injustice, the Senate is scheduled to consider S. 160, the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009, this week. This legislation is a good first step toward the goal of full democratic voting representation in Congress for DC residents. S. 160 would add two voting members to the U.S. House of Representatives – one to represent Washington, DC and one to represent Utah (Utah narrowly lost getting an additional congressional seat after the last U.S. Census in 2000; officials in Utah believe that thousands of missionaries living abroad were unfairly excluded during the Census count.) This bill provides a “vote neutral” option by adding two additional seats most likely to be represented by a Democrat and a Republican.
Because it is not a constitutional amendment, the bill in question is undoubtedly unconstitutional. But what’s really funny here is that the Washington Office simply repeats a Democratic Party talking point–hey, this isn’t partisan, since we’re giving another seat to Utah! But that’s meaningless for a couple of reasons: 1) Utah isn’t monolithically dominated by Republicans the way the District is by Democrats (as recently as 2004 the governor was a Democrat, for instance); and 2) with the next census, that seat could easily be re-assigned to another state. So this is no more “vote neutral” than any other Washington action that tinkers with the electoral system.
But then, what else would you expect from an agency that may as well be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party?