- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 18, 2007

The White House announced its opposition Friday to a bill that would give the District voting representation in the House, rightly calling the measure unconstitutional. The Bush administration’s view of the measure is a reasonable one, and comes at an important time. The bill passed through the House Judiciary Committee Friday and could come to a full House vote as soon as next week.

The White House concern is well founded. The Constitution restricts representation in Congress to members elected by “the several states,” a class to which the District does not belong. Congress can’t change the Constitution through legislation. Congress does exercise wide legislative control over the District, as the legislation’s defenders argue. But that doesn’t address the fact that “the District was created openly, expressly to be a non-state,” as Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University Law School, testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Even ardent supporters of the bill who believe it to be constitutional expect a serious challenge in the courts.

An amendment introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, called for an expedited judicial review but this was rejected by a vote along party lines. Rep. Louie Gohmert, another Texas Republican, called for voting representation for various military bases around the country — he wanted to offer 43 amendments, in fact, in hopes of stressing this bill’s unconstitutionality. The bill finally passed out of committee without any amendments despite the many that were proposed. Two Republicans supported it: Reps. Mike Pence of Indiana and Chris Cannon of Utah, whose predominantly Republican state would be accorded another representative under the bill to offset the addition of a District seat for a Democrat.

D.C. voting advocates cheered the advance of the bill to the House floor — an earlier bill that would have given the District a vote in the 109th Congress didn’t make it out of the Judiciary Committee — but the legislation’s prospects are far from certain, especially with the White House opposed. The White House did not say whether President Bush would veto the legislation if adopted by the Senate. If the bill clear legislative hurdles, however, it is likely to be struck down by the courts as the unconstitutional legislation that it is.

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