Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

DC Voting Rights: DOA

Last week Thomas highlighted the unconstitutional move by the Senate to grant the District of Columbia a voting seat in the House. We are both against such a move, sans a constitutional amendment which is the only way the federal District could receive such a seat. DC voting rights advocates celebrated the vote because it seemed that the House vote was virtually assured of passing. Yesterday the voting rights advocates dreams came crashing down, and it was all due to Senator John Ensign:

For the second time in as many weeks, the House has had to postpone action on a major bill important to Democratic leaders.

The House Democratic leadership Tuesday decided to delay a plan to grant a seat in the House to the District of Columbia. Since it is not a state, Washington, D.C., does not get a vote in Congress.

The Senate approved a similar bill to give the District voting representation. And approval in the House seemed all but assured. But an amendment attached to the Senate version of the legislation by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., created problems in the House.

Ensign's amendment would give Washington residents better access to firearms. The Supreme Court last year ruled that the District's 32-year-old ban on firearms was unconstitutional.

Washington, D.C. delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton ripped pro-gun Democrats following the news.

"There is no choice between a vote for American citizens and a completely unrelated and reckless gun bill. That is a non-choice," Norton said during an emotional impromptu press conference following the Democratic caucus meeting Tuesday afternoon. "That's not a fair exchange. That's not even an unfair exchange. That is an absurd exchange that no one would accept."

Passing the District of Columbia legislation was supposed to be easy in the House compared to the Senate. But the National Rifle Association signaled it could make a procedural vote on the issue a test case for lawmakers' Second Amendment voting records.

Nearly every piece of legislation that comes to the House floor must receive what's called a "rule." The rule establishes the guidelines for how lawmakers will handle the measure on the floor. Everything from time allotments to amendments are contained in the rule.

However, the Democratic leadership faced a potential revolt from moderate and conservative Democrats on the vote to approve the rule if the leadership failed to include Ensign's firearms provision.

The House cannot debate a bill if the procedural vote on the rule fails.

So this conundrum forced the Democrats to punt on representation for the District of Columbia for now.

Norton asked House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) to temporarily pull the bill until they can come up with a strategy to move forward.

"The gravest insult is to pit the safety and security of everybody in the District -- from the president down to the kids who can now get hold of military weapons plus District residents -- put all that at risk by putting this reckless bill forward," she said.

Ms. Norton needs to calm down. this is the abject and asinine hysteria of the Left. DC v. Heller lifted the unconstitutional firearms ban on Washington, DC residents. It did not state that they could go out and purchase military-grade firearms. Military-grade weapons still require a Class III weapons license, which is not an easy license to obtain. Additionally, it is not as if gun stores in the DC area regularly carry such weapons. I would wager that no gun store has access to, or the ability to sell, military-grade firearms. So Ms. Norton's histrionic screed merits no relevance.

As to the DC voting rights argument, I stand by what I said, and constitutional scholars will agree. Article I, Section 8, Clause fifteen specifically states that the Congress is allowed and required "To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District ..." The District in question is the federal district created 1800 by the ceded territory from Maryland and Virginia. (In 1846 the Virginia portion was retroceded back to the Commonwealth, and the Supreme Court never ruled on the constitutionality of that decision.)

If the residents of Washington, DC desire voting rights, they have but one avenue to pursue. They must lobby the Congress to pass a constitutional amendment allowing them such a right. The amendment will either supersede the powers of the Congress (Article I, Section 8, Clause fifteen; basically a repeal of that provision), or it will grant it directly, effectively trumping the congressional powers. (This would be akin to the Seventeenth Amendment opening up the direct election of senators by the people as opposed to the various state legislatures.) This is the only legal way which Washington, DC may receive a vote within the House (not the Senate as the District is not a state). It cannot be done any other way, and if the Congress attempts this all over again, and should it pass, the various states should be ready to march into federal court, and end this folly.

Marcie

3 Comments:

Blogger HerbM said...

Actually they have two avenues for representation, one the Constitutional amendment, and the other for the Federal government to cede all residential areas (e.g., those not occupied by Federal buildings or facilities) back to Maryland.

This additional method even obtains Senate representation for them.

It was done for the Virginia side, it certainly can work for the Maryland side of the Potomac.

March 4, 2009 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger Syd And Vaughn said...

Herb,

I believe my lovely wife cited the 1846 retroceding in her post, so she is aware of that. She just didn't mention that avenue directly because, well, she had cited it. The easiest method would be for a constitutional amendment, which was tried in 1977, and failed to get the requisite 2/3's majority in the seven year time span.

Fault her for not mentioning it, but don't fault her for not touching on it because she did.

Publius II

March 4, 2009 at 3:56 PM  
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