- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2007

The District of Columbia finally may get its own minted commemorative quarter, but the residents of the capital of the free world are still being nickeled and dimed for a priceless vote in Congress.

Shame on the Democrats. Clearly they care more about their giddy power than about doing right by the die-hard Democrats in the District.

In a largely symbolic gesture, the go-gangbusters Democrat-controlled House of Representatives last week voted to restore a floor vote for the delegates from the capital city and the U.S. territories.

Thank you, but no thank you. The committee of the whole votes count only if they don’t count.

If those delegates’ votes determine the passage of any piece of legislation, it takes just one representative from any state to insist on a revote and nullify the delegates’ desires. So much for the guaranteed representation of millions of American citizens, especially those in the District, who pay federal taxes.

Who needs this distraction that could lead to derailment of the more substantial bill? The Democrats have on hold a bill that would grant the District’s delegate a full binding vote at least in the representatives’ chamber. The District deserves full voting representation in Congress, in the House as well as in the Senate, especially as this country wages war in the name of democracy all around the globe.

You should know that Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Democrat who can vote only in committee, and Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican, have been trying for months to bring to a vote the D.C. Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act, which would increase the number of representatives.

They barely missed the deadline in the last session when the measure got lost in the muddle of the midterm election shake-up.

The Democrat-leaning District would get a vote in the House and the Republican-leaning state of Utah would get an additional vote, as well as another vote in the electoral college. Sweet deal for the latter, eh?

“Congress has never increased representation without requiring political balance, most recently in the admission of Hawaii and Alaska to the union,” Mrs. Norton has said.

No wonder Republicans, hollering about the Constitution, were upset last week during the debate about granting the predominately Democratic delegates votes in the chamber’s committee of the whole. Though gutless, the maneuver still increases the new majority party’s number without correlation for the minority.

So, were the Democrats out to help the District or simply themselves? And will their blatant political maneuver so anger the Republicans as to hurt the city’s voting-rights efforts in the long run? Better not.

As Mrs. Norton argues correctly, this crucial voting measure — with more bang for the buck for the city — should have been a priority in the Democrats’ 100-day agenda.

Instead, the District won another symbolic gesture in the House: to submit a design to the U.S. Mint to be placed on the back of a commemorative quarter like the 50 states have. The Senate may vote it down again.

For emblems on their customized coins, Virginia is represented by tall ships sailing to Jamestown, Maryland by its historic State House in Annapolis. The District’s symbol should be a ballot box with an X over it.

By the way, it was a Democrat, President Clinton, who “dissed” the District by not including the nation’s capital in the states’ coin program in the first place.

“Some of the problems we have had have been caused by our friends,” said Michael K. Fauntroy, a George Mason University political science professor and author of “Republicans and the Black Vote.” Mr. Fauntroy, the nephew of the first nonvoting delegate in the District, the Rev. Walter Fauntroy, participated in a panel discussion about D.C. voting rights last week sponsored by D.C. Vote, the League of Women Voters and Our Nation’s Capital.

The general consensus by the speakers, including Mrs. Norton, Mr. Davis and U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn, Maryland Democrat, is the need for expediency on the reintroduced full voting-rights bill before the House gets bogged down in cantankerous partisanship over the budget and the war.

“We need to get this done in the next month to six weeks, and we are hopeful that the Democrats will do right by us,” Mr. Fauntroy said.

Back in 1993, when House Republicans filed suit calling delegates’ nonbinding votes unconstitutional, U.S. District Court Judge Harold H. Greene ruled in favor of the city and the territories. He said the votes were “symbolic” and therefore “meaningless.” He was upheld on appeal.

Mrs. Norton has to play nice publicly and act halfway gracious about getting back the committee of the whole votes that the Republicans, when in power, took away from the delegates simply because they had the majority to do so.

Now it’s up to the Democrats to exercise their majority muscle.

You don’t have to know the fiery Mrs. Norton well to read between the lines of her barely contained impassioned plea for her party’s House leaders to take up full voting rights for the District and stop fiddling around with the chump change.

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