- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 17, 2007

Advocates for D.C. representation in Congress may be optimistic that with a supportive speaker in Nancy Pelosi, Congress will take action on legislation to give the District a full-fledged, voting member in the House. Democrats have already approved a rule change, as they did in 1993, to grant delegates a vote in the Committee of the Whole, so long as their votes don’t affect a bill’s outcome. Despite the shift in momentum that supporters of the measure seem to believe is happening, the current legislation hasn’t overcome its biggest obstacle: the fact that it’s unconstitutional.

Rep. Tom Davis, the Virginia Republican who has been a driving force for D.C. representation, reintroduced his D.C. Voting Rights Act in January. Largely the same as the bill that failed to pass in the 109th, the current legislation would expand the House to 437 members, with Utah and the District each receiving an additional representative. Instead of giving Utah an at-large congressional district — regarded as another controversial aspect of the previous bill — the current legislation calls on Utah to draw a fourth district.

The idea of giving one seat to heavily Republican Utah may help to allay partisan discord, but it doesn’t overcome the fact that the Constitution explicitly notes that representation in both the House and Senate is limited to citizens of states, a category into which the District does not fall. Although it may govern the District, Congress lacks the simple legislative prerogative to change the Constitution. Voting representation in the House would require a constitutional amendment — just as the 23rd Amendment was required in order for District residents to vote for president.

Weighing in on the issue this week was the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which concluded in a report that “although not beyond question, it would appear likely that the Congress does not have authority to grant voting representation in the House of Representatives to the Delegate from the District of Columbia as contemplated under [Mr. Davis’ bill].” The thorough report should be influential. Mayor Adrian Fenty joined Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mr. Davis and numerous supporters on the Hill this week to lobby for action on the bill, but no amount of advocacy can compensate for the measure’s fatal flaw.

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