The Republican Party, having squandered its electoral authority by succumbing to the dissolute wiles of Washington, appears to have learned nothing from its defeat last November. Faced with a clear challenge to the unambiguous language of the Constitution, many GOP leaders have abandoned their principles. Particularly shocking is the defection of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
As a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Hatch should view himself as a guardian of the Constitution. Instead, he set a low price for violating the document, a price that the Democratic majority says it will eagerly pay: one congressional seat.
At issue is granting voting representation to the District of Columbia. (The District, like American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, already has non-voting delegates; Puerto Rico has a similar resident commissioner.) Adding a seat to Utah is meant to maintain the partisan balance.
The measure has already passed the House with 22 GOP votes. Former Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) roamed the halls, calling the measure a civil rights issue. Sen. Hatch has cosponsored (with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, ID-Conn., a Republican favorite) companion legislation in the Senate.
The issue is simple, so simple that you’d think even legislators could get it. The residents of Washington, D.C. deserve to have voting congressional representation. The federal district is far larger than the core territory necessary for federal operations. There’s no reason to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of people.
However, the Constitution does not allow Congress to willy-nilly bestow congressional representation on disenfranchised groups. Article I states: “the House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen … by the People of the several states.”
The word is “states.” Like Virginia and Maryland, California and New York. Not cities. Not districts. Not territories. Not enclaves. Not groups of people living overseas. Not extended families. But “states.”
The Constitution could be amended to provide the District with congressional representation. Indeed, the 23rd Amendment explicitly provided D.C. with presidential electors. It did not, however, offer representation in the House or Senate.
Obviously, it is out of fashion these days to worry much about what the Constitution says. The president is supposed to be 35? Well, many 30-year-olds are pretty mature. The chief executive is supposed to be a natural born citizen? Well, why let a little ancient xenophobia prevent a good person from being elected? The president is limited to two terms? A silly measure directed posthumously against Franklin Delano Roosevelt shouldn’t bind future presidents.
Thus, why let a constitutional provision limiting congressional representation to states actually limit congressional representation to states? After all, the Constitution is but a piece of paper written by a bunch of dead slave-owning white males and it shouldn’t get in the way of justice, fairness, and good governance. Voting representation is a good cause, so who cares what the nation’s fundamental law says!
That appears to be the opinion of not just Democrats, but some Republicans. Rep. Thomas Davis (R-Va.), a leading supporter, advocates that Republicans vote for representation and let the courts decide the issue. So much for GOP blathering about the sanctity of the Constitution and the importance of judges who will follow rather than fabricate the law. Congressmen, too, take an oath to the Constitution and have an obligation to follow the nation’s fundamental law.
Jack Kemp is even less concerned about the Constitution, complaining about members who “literally walk away, saying the bill is unconstitutional. Unconstitutional? They voted for the Patriot Act!” Is his argument that if legislators voted for one unconstitutional bill, they should vote for another one? If that’s his attitude, why bother having a Constitution?
Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican leader position after last November’s electoral debacle, argues: “I cannot believe the Founders intended to deny 550,000 Americans representation.” Actually, the Founders did so intend if those 550,000 Americans didn’t live in a state. But the Founders never imagined that so many people would live in what was expected to be a small federal enclave.
Advocates of the legislation simply prefer not to talk about the Constitution. “This is one of the last chances the Republicans have to be a truly national party,” says Kemp. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) opines that “This is about being on the right or wrong side of history.”
If advocates of D.C. congressional representation really believe their rhetoric, however, they would provide the District with two senators as well. Why, after all, should D.C. residents be denied the right to vote for members of the upper body? If the Constitution is no barrier, then justice requires that city residents be treated like their countrymen in every respect. Providing one congressman looks like a cheap compromise, intended to pacify voters without unduly destabilizing the political structure.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online