Thursday, February 26, 2009

DC Retrocession to MD killed; Voting rights could become a constitutional conundrum


Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to give Washington DC one voting member in the House. The bill is HR 157, 111th Congress, with govtrack link here. Also go to “DC Vote” coverage here.

The corresponding bill on the Senate is S. 160, introduced by Joseph Lieberman (I-CT).

Nevertheless, there is a big fight over the measure, particularly from Republicans in the Senate, especially 2008 presidential candidate John McCain. The constitutional arguments, which could well wind up on court, deal with the fact that the District is not a “state”. Theoretically, the argument could be solved by retroceding the City (or most of it, outside of the major federal buildings) to the state of Maryland, giving the state a second major city almost the size of Baltimore. (No, "Tall Man" on the Metro, this did not come from The Onion!) Such proposals have been floated informally ever since the 1960s (when "home rule" was a popular political buzzword). However, the Washington Post reported at around 11 AM today that the Senate had killed a proposal to effect such retrocession, by a 67-30 vote. Mary Beth Sheridan has the story, here.

Earlier, the Post carried a story on the first page of the Metro section, p B1, by Mary Beth Sheridan and Michael Ruane, “Foes Fight D.C. Vote Measure in Senate: Amendments to Repeal Gun Control, Cede City to Md. Are Proposed.”

The weapons measure would confound the District’s attempt to regulate home gun possession after the outright handgun ban was declared unconstitutional last year by the Supreme Court on Second Amendment grounds.

The other major idea would be full DC statehood, which would likely add two Democratic Senators to the Senate. There is hardly any doubt that the historical objection to direct DC representation has a lot to do with racial history. The City's license plates still read "Taxation Without Representation", a major buzzword of the American Revolution.

High school civics and government teachers ought to look into the DC vote situation carefully. There's a lot of substance here.

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