- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2003

Voting-rights advocate Timothy Cooper, of Democracy First, is not one to mince words. “One can only hope that Davis’ proposal is dead on arrival,” he said about a report about the congressional overseers’ plans to bring more de facto democracy to the District.

DOA it is. Mr. Cooper was referring to a radio report about a voting-rights proposal supposedly being put forth by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, which includes a subcommittee on the District

WTOP Radio political analyst Mark Plotkin reported that the high-ranking Republican from Virginia was drafting legislation that would increase the number of congressional members from 435 to 437 as a roundabout way of granting the District’s delegate a vote in the chamber.

Not without a catch though. Here the “R” word rears its ugly head. The tradeoff involved creating a 9th Congressional District in Maryland that would be represented by a D.C. delegate.

Huh? Sound like a backdoor maneuver for retrocession? You bet. “It is de facto Retrocession Lite,” said Mr. Cooper. “Davis’ proposal makes a mockery of the concept of equal rights for all U.S. citizens. It is a concerted effort on the part of the Republicans to enshrine in perpetuity the unequal status of D.C. residents.”

Like many who struggle for full representation in Congress for D.C. residents, Mr. Cooper’s all-or-nothing attitude is their “give me liberty or give me death” rallying cry.

Kevin Kiger, communications director of D.C. Vote, said his organization was taking a wait-and-see approach until an actual bill was on paper, but “on the surface, it is not a solution and it appears to go against our mission to secure full and equal voting representation in Congress.” He was “glad they’re starting a dialogue, but it’s not going as far as it needs to go.”

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said, also on WTOP, he was “on the train” to support full representation for the District, but “gets off at the stop” where retrocession comes in.

It’s a nonstarter even for D.C. Republican Party Chairman Betsy Werronen, who said they fight for full voting representation because they “believe in it because it’s the right thing to do.”

“I don’t understand any of this stuff with Maryland, and I’d have to have it explained,” she said.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting representative in the House, yesterday issued a clarifying statement about this “win-win” idea, saying her position had not changed that full representation for the District means two senators and a representative.

Further, Mrs. Norton “never discussed retrocession with Mr. Davis,” said her spokeswoman Doxie McCoy. And Mrs. Norton “encouraged Davis to go forward to search for a win-win for full representation that doesn’t mean giving Maryland our vote.”

Hold on, wait a minute.

Dave Marin, spokesman for Mr. Davis, said the “de facto Retrocession Lite” report is dead wrong. “We don’t support a retrocession approach,” he said, adding that Mr. Plotkin’s “facts are fiction.” Mr. Marin explained that when the congressmen was asked last week about supporting voting representation by the commentator, Mr. Davis said he was considering legislation to accomplish this goal.

“We are exploring all options,” Mr. Marin said. The committee prefers to draft something legislatively rather than constitutionally because “we all know where it would go — nowhere.” Still, Mr. Marin refused to give a hint about those “options,” but added that Mr. Davis “wants to be flexible because he wants the support of the president and the leadership.”

Back to Mr. Plotkin. “I described it as an option they were considering, and now they’ve backed away from it,” he said. He reiterated that the option was “not a bill that had been written or language that had been settled on.” He learned that Mr. Davis floated this option during a Greater Washington Board of Trade breakfast, and “that doesn’t mean that we can’t ruminate about it.”

In fact, the political commentator said, “It’s our responsibility to say it’s being discussed [as one option] and that it might be included, and if so, it doesn’t deserve to be in the bill.” The second part of the suspicious DOA option also would have granted Utah an additional representative. The evenhanded thinking there was supposedly to give the District, which is predominantly Democratic, one vote and Utah, which is predominantly Republican, one vote.

That option was designed to achieve a political balance and win support from the Republicans who generally do not support any form of self-determination for nearly 600,000 Americans who live in the District.

While the Constitution says nothing about limiting the size of the House of Representatives, congressional seats are supposed to be based on population, not politics. Everybody appears to be reading from the same “Free D.C.” book now; they’re just not on the same “The Last Colony” chapter.

On June 13, D.C. Vote presented a new D.C. flag bearing the words “No Taxation Without Representation” — modeled after the license plates — in the D.C. Council chamber. Tonight, Democracy Now will hold a “First-in-the-Nation D.C. Presidential Primary Celebration” at Mr. Cooper’s Tenleytown home. And Mr. Plotkin, the home rule “purist,” never misses a beat when it comes to supporting full democracy for the District and needling politicians to correct this hypocritical situation.

“That Mr. Davis supports voting rights for the District is not news and has long been on the record,” said Mr. Marin. And, the congressman is “for real voting representation,” not a symbolic gesture, as in the past when the Democrats granted Mrs. Norton a floor vote in the committee of the whole. Take note, it was the Republicans who rescinded her voice vote.

Whatever the option Mr. Davis put forth, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Kiger, Mr. Williams, Mr. Plotkin, Mrs. Werronen and Mrs. Norton are right: The “de facto Retrocession Lite” should not be put on the table, but be pronounced DOA.

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