- The Washington Times - Friday, May 24, 2002

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee that the District of Columbia, with 572,000 residents who pay about $3 billion a year in federal taxes, should have full voting rights in Congress.

Mr. Williams, other city leaders and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton testified in support of the "No Taxation without Representation Act," sponsored by committee Chairman Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat.

The measure would exempt D.C. residents from the federal income tax until the city has full voting rights in the House and Senate.

"This is the first time the Senate has taken an interest," said Mrs. Norton, who represents the District in the House and has sponsored the House measure. She can vote in committee, but not on the floor. The District has no representation in the Senate.

Yesterday, Mr. Lieberman called on members of Congress to remove "a stain on the fabric of democracy" by passing a bill he introduced to give the District full voting rights in the House and Senate. The new D.C. voting-rights bill was originally sponsored by only Mr. Lieberman and Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, but Mrs. Norton said now the bill "has a dozen co-sponsors and follow-up phone calls are still to be made."

D.C. residents are the only Americans without a vote in Congress who pay federal taxes. Residents of Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Island and other U.S. territories have no vote, but pay no federal taxes.

"I think we've reached the point where we can't make excuses any longer," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, one of two other committee members on hand to give their support. The other was Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat.

Mr. Durbin said the real reason the District is denied statehood, despite the strict constructionist views of some congressional members, is "because some members believe it will tip the [political] scales one way or another."

Mr. Levin called it a crime that "D.C. pays more federal taxes annually per capita than any other state, save one," but is given no consideration for full representation.

Mr. Williams said enactment of the bill would alleviate a major headache for him in dealing with the city's budget.

"One of the things is, we have to do our budget oftentimes without revenue estimates because we have to get it in before everyone else," Mr. Williams said.

He said in his first year as mayor he was astonished to find that while he and the D.C. Council were working on the 2000 budget, the 1999 fiscal year budget had yet to be passed.

Mr. Williams said it is difficult to fully represent the interests of D.C. residents when they have no voting members of Congress.

"If we had full voting rights in Congress, we could work for greater parity with other jurisdictions in our region," Mr. Williams said, noting that a majority of the city's income earners commute from Virginia and Maryland.

Mrs. Norton said the hearing on voting rights is the closest any administration has gotten in the District's history in moving toward absolute home rule. Last Wednesday, she led more than 250 D.C. residents in lobbying senators in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Some critics have questioned Mrs. Norton's notion to wait until she has the support of half of the Senate before bringing the bill up for a vote.

Mr. Feingold said he would be prepared to bring the bill up for vote today. Mr. Feingold joined Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, for seven years to get campaign-finance reform passed this year.

"We found, on the McCain-Feingold bill, you just have to keep bringing it up until you break them down," Mr. Feingold said of opponents.

"This issue cannot be denied, and we will win," he added.

But Mr. Feingold said as an ally of the bill, he trusts the leadership of Mr. Lieberman and Mrs. Norton and will not second-guess their strategy.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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