- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 13, 2006

In a press conference Thursday, Rep. Tom Davis announced a proposal for new legislation that would grant the District of Columbia a voting representative in the House. Support for D.C. voting rights is not new for Mr. Davis, who has championed prior legislation to give full voting rights to the District’s non-voting delegate. What would be new, however, is the vote Mr. Davis has promised in the Government Reform Committee, which he chairs. More importantly, there is the matter of the Constitution that cannot be overlooked.

Although Mr. Davis’ proposal includes neither statehood nor Senate representation, it’s hard not to see this as a move in the direction of both. That Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton moved her support — albeit temporarily — from full congressional representation to the more limited Davis proposal shows that some supporters, at least, see it as just that: a stepping stone to statehood.

It’s critical that Congress maintain its constitutionally mandated plenary authority over the District. The framers included such authority in the Constitution so that the federal government had control over its seat of power, ensuring both that it was neutral in relation to other states and that it was not subject to any particular state.

The Davis bill, known as the D.C. Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act of 2006, provides for an increase of two seats in the House — one awarded to the District, and the other an at-large seat for the state of Utah. Unlike previous proposals, which would have subsequently contracted the two seats but left the D.C. seat intact, Mr. Davis’ proposal cools some partisan tensions by permanently expanding the House with the addition of a likely Democrat from D.C. and a likely Republican from Utah.

Real representation in the House but not the Senate is without precedent, and for logical reasons. This legislative power is a prerogative of states, not cities — a fact that Mayor Tony Williams conspicuously dodged in his statement that the District may win “the same rights enjoyed by other American cities.”

Moreover, such unprecedented legislative action would require a change in the constitutional status of the District, and changing the status of the District requires an amendment to the Consitution. After all, D.C. citizens wouldn’t have the right to vote had Congress not approved the 23rd Amendment.

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