Taxation without Representation
September 19, 2007 6:06 PM   Subscribe

Senate kills bill to give D.C. representation (L.A. Times).

Yesterday the U.S. Senate denied a cloture motion on a bill to allow the District of Columbia two voting U.S. Senators. Facts, the District has a population of 581,530 to Wyoming's 515,004. The district has no representation in the senate, and can only send a single representative to the house, who cannot vote. Washington, D.C. is predominantly black and overwhelmingly democratic. President Bush had threatened to veto if the bill had passed, but his threat was largely ceremonial - the bill needed 60 votes for cloture anyway. The vote was 57-42, largely along party lines. Most Republicans claimed that the bill was "clearly and unambiguously unconstitutional," though eight members of the G.O.P. voted for it anyway, led by former Vice Presidential candidate Jack Kemp.
posted by Navelgazer (76 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
So Washington D.C. residents pay taxes, but they have no representation. Hmmm, this sounds familiar. Didn't some people fight a war over that?
posted by mullingitover at 6:09 PM on September 19, 2007


So the same senators who voted against habeas corpus and for warrentless wiretapping are claiming this is unconstitutional?
posted by null terminated at 6:09 PM on September 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


Well, it's only half a million people, and most of them aren't white.
(sarcasm...former non-represented DC resident)
posted by MtDewd at 6:11 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's one of those issues that few people know about, but once it's explained, hardly anyone can argue that it makes any sense.
posted by rottytooth at 6:11 PM on September 19, 2007


Well to be fair, a lot of D.C. residents are black, and disenfranchising them would be a lot of work on top of what the GOP already has going on in the rest of the country.
posted by mullingitover at 6:12 PM on September 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


Why would this not require a Constitutional amendment?

I mean, other than in a de facto sense.

"The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years". Is that not clear?

I can't believe I'm apparently agreeing with Republicans.

I should be clear that I am not necessarily opposed to a Constitutional amendment similar to the proposed bill.
posted by Flunkie at 6:12 PM on September 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


I love that article (unconstitutional) that thinks it's unfair every state has the same amount of senators. That's the whole freakin' point.
posted by ALongDecember at 6:14 PM on September 19, 2007


"The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years". Is that not clear?

Except that this bill (and similar ones in the past) have not sought to give DC a seat in the Senate, but rather a voting seat in the House.
posted by Poolio at 6:16 PM on September 19, 2007


Flunkie, I agree that there's a constitutional argument to be made, but it isn't airtight. I mean, the language doesn't prohibit representatives from the district. It just demands two from each state. For a direct comparison, the only court that the constitution demanded was the supreme court, but that didn't make it unconstitutional for congress to create district and appelate courts.

Still, an amendment would be great, but what do you think would have to occur for that to happen? Already the grand majority of U.S. citizens don't know/care about this as it is.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:17 PM on September 19, 2007


Except that this bill (and similar ones in the past) have not sought to give DC a seat in the Senate, but rather a voting seat in the House.

The Constitution uses similar language to describe congresspeople: "No Person shall be a Representative who shall not ... when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen." Enfranchisement is a good idea, but needs an amendment to be Constitutional.
posted by tepidmonkey at 6:18 PM on September 19, 2007


Except that this bill (and similar ones in the past) have not sought to give DC a seat in the Senate, but rather a voting seat in the House.
Um.

First of all, then the poster should not have said "Yesterday the U.S. Senate denied a cloture motion on a bill to allow the District of Columbia two voting U.S. Senators."

Second of all, and more importantly:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.
Is this not clear?
posted by Flunkie at 6:20 PM on September 19, 2007


I think the argument for constitutionality has to do with how the US has treated the word "state" in other parts of the Constitution as including DC, so a literal reading of the clause about Senate composition is not the only legitimate reading. I don't know the nuances of the argument though.
posted by Falconetti at 6:20 PM on September 19, 2007


Flunkie, I agree that there's a constitutional argument to be made, but it isn't airtight. I mean, the language doesn't prohibit representatives from the district. It just demands two from each state.
That's not true.

It doesn't say that there will be two members from each state. It says the Senate shall be two members from each state.
posted by Flunkie at 6:21 PM on September 19, 2007


But DC is a district, not a state.

Just kidding. I know that's a distinction without a difference (in this case).

I agree with you, flunkie... I was just sayin'... and I missed the reference to "two voting U.S. Senators", otherwise I would've commented on that too.
posted by Poolio at 6:22 PM on September 19, 2007


I think the argument for constitutionality has to do with how the US has treated the word "state" in other parts of the Constitution as including DC
I think this is off the mark, too.

For example, the original Constitution said that the President was elected by the states. And, not coincidentally, residents of DC did not have the right to vote for President.

They now do.

Because of a Constitutional amendment (the XXIII).
posted by Flunkie at 6:23 PM on September 19, 2007


Who cares what the constitution says? It's just a goddamn piece of paper.
posted by fungible at 6:24 PM on September 19, 2007 [4 favorites]


It seems pretty airtight to me. Article I, Section 8 specifically calls D.C. a "District", and says it should be formed "by Cession of particular States". And the 23rd Amendment, which gives D.C. the right to vote for president, says, "The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct: A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State ..."

On preview: What Flunkie has been saying.
posted by tepidmonkey at 6:28 PM on September 19, 2007


One possible solution is to end federal taxation, then DC residents are left bereft of rhyming slogans.
posted by Falconetti at 6:29 PM on September 19, 2007


Also, more seriously, the residential portions of DC could be retroceded to Maryland, like some portions were in 1846 to Virginia, although Robert Kennedy, when he was Attorney General, said such a move would be unconstitutional (I don't know under what theory though).
posted by Falconetti at 6:32 PM on September 19, 2007


I think it's nice of the Republicans to take time out from suspending Habeas Corpus, invading Americans' privacy, stripping freedom of speech, crushing separation of church and state, and waging war without the consent of Congress to tell a few hundred thousand uppity negroes who have the audacity to want a voice in Congress that the Constitution is so very, very precious to them.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:33 PM on September 19, 2007 [16 favorites]


It sucks, it's morally wrong on every level, but Flunkie and Tepidmonkey are right. The District of Columbia is *not* a state, therefore, they get nothing, you lose, good day, sir!

The right answer, which won't happen until there are 60 democratic Senators, a democratic House, and a democratic President, is to admit the District of Columbia as a state, which will give it two senators and three reps. This will never happen if the GOP can possibly stop it.

This is acutally easier to do that passing the amendment to allow DC the representative and senator that they truly deserve.
posted by eriko at 6:33 PM on September 19, 2007


LOLdisenfranchiseddcresidents!

Anyway.

Eleanor Holmes Norton could kick the asses of most of the other Reps in the House. With one hand tied behind her back.

- embittered former DC resident
posted by rtha at 6:38 PM on September 19, 2007


Yeah, I really dislike that DC does not get a vote, but it wouldn't hold up to challenge.

Oh, and navelgazer, hate to nitpick but, 'The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office'.
posted by absalom at 6:39 PM on September 19, 2007


Eleanor Holmes Norton could kick the asses of most of the other Reps in the House. With one hand tied behind her back.

Stephen Colbert's "Better Know a District" interview with her was one of my favorites.
posted by Poolio at 6:40 PM on September 19, 2007


This vote was all too predictable. At least our lack of representation in the legislature is a license to bitch.
posted by exogenous at 6:43 PM on September 19, 2007


The right answer (...) is to admit the District of Columbia as a state
I don't know, that might not be as clear-cut unconstitutional as the current proposal, but an argument could at least be made.

The Constitution says that the seat of government shall be made by cession of states; it doesn't directly continue that "... and it shall not itself be a state", but I think that's pretty clearly the intention. Especially if I'm remembering my stuff like The Federalist Papers correctly.

Plus, the Constitution gives Congress direct legislative authority over the district, yet requires states to have their own elected legislatures.

So I think that this would require an amendment as well, or, at the very least, a case could be made that it would.
posted by Flunkie at 6:43 PM on September 19, 2007


The right answer, which won't happen until there are 60 democratic Senators, a democratic House, and a democratic President, is to admit the District of Columbia as a state, which will give it two senators and three reps. This will never happen if the GOP can possibly stop it.

Actually, that would require amending the Constitution, which states the capital of government shall be housed in a "Federal city belonging to no state of no more than ten miles square." The U.S. capital can, constitutionally, not be in any state. Fixing that to make the whole of DC a state would require an Amendment, which would take 67 votes (2/3) and then 3/5 of the state legislatures.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:44 PM on September 19, 2007


Video of Colbert's interview of Norton
posted by Poolio at 6:44 PM on September 19, 2007


I like Falconetti's "retrocede residential sections to Maryland" idea.
posted by Flunkie at 6:46 PM on September 19, 2007


Don't worry about the nitpicking, guys. If I was wrong about something, then yeah, correct the record, please. As this issue was being discussed in one of my law school meetings today, it was presented as giving the district two senators, but obviously I either misinterpreted what was being said, or it was just simply incorrect. Truly, I would highly prefer D.C. statehood, but that, again, is likely a long, long ways down the road (or maybe in 2009, who knows how it'll go?)

There has been discussion of receding all lands but those of federal buildings back to Maryland, but that requires that Maryland would want to deal with suddenly having a very troubled metropolis with inadequate and crumbling infrastructure on their hands, especially considering how much work is left to be done with Baltimore.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:52 PM on September 19, 2007


How about other US citizens who do not have a say in Congress?

Residents of Puerto Rico? Guam? U.S. Virgin Islands? Probably others?

Why D.C. and not them?
posted by Flunkie at 6:52 PM on September 19, 2007


Navelgazer writes "Still, an amendment would be great, but what do you think would have to occur for that to happen? Already the grand majority of U.S. citizens don't know/care about this as it is."

A good PR campaign around election time would help. Like, show images of the residents of DC, and have a voice-over talking about how important voting is, what a great responsibility, how people die for the right, and how it ties into representation in DC, etc., and then say that all the US citizens you have seen during the commercial have no such representation. Urge your Senator/Rep to take action, etc. It truly is one of those issues that would have tremendous support if enough people knew about it. But you have to have all the pieces in place, such as bill sponsors, bi-partisan support, well-considered language for the bills and amendment, smart media people ready to pounce, celebrity and political endorsements, great looking, smart national ads across all media, otherwise it's ripple in a sea of noise.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:58 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why D.C. and not them?

Because DC residents pay federal income tax.
posted by The World Famous at 7:00 PM on September 19, 2007


Poolio - that clip is fantastic. Thank you!
posted by rtha at 7:01 PM on September 19, 2007


Flunkie writes "Why D.C. and not them?"

I think it has to do with the distinction between a district and a territory. But there have always been movements to make each of them into official states, particularly in Puerto Rico, where the legal status has always been in contention.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:02 PM on September 19, 2007


krinklyfig writes "and then say that all the US citizens you have seen during the commercial have no such representation"

Oh, and as those words are heard, slowly reveal them standing in front of ... oh, say, the Lincoln Memorial, or the White House, or, really, any monument in DC.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:04 PM on September 19, 2007


Ha ha!
posted by jewzilla at 7:05 PM on September 19, 2007


My favorite quote from the "unconsitutional" article:

Washington, D.C. is already overrepresented in the Electoral College, where it has 0.6 percent of the votes, despite having less than 0.2 percent of the nation’s population.

I'm curious to know whether the same blog is as uppity about increasing the electoral college weight of New York and California.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:10 PM on September 19, 2007


It seems bizarre to me that this hasn't been sorted out yet...and that there appears to be so much opposition to fixing it.

All I hear is "it's unconstitutional, it's unconstitutional"... then why not fix your constitution, because it's clearly broken! Don't be so pessimistic about the idea, accept the fact that, as times change, your constitution has to change.

Down here on the other side of the pacific, also got a distinction between "states" and "territories". Our constitution also defines the location and size of the capital, separating it from a state, and making it a federally-managed territory. But our constitution also specifies how representatives and senators are allocated to states and territories - surely it can't be that difficult to do the same in the US, ignoring any politically motivated opposition?
posted by Jimbob at 7:15 PM on September 19, 2007


It is obscene that DC has no representation. The right way to fix it seems to require a constitutional amendment, as others have already stated in this thread.

I wonder, though, if the right idea would be to make DC a state, or rather, to treat it as a congressional district within Maryland for electoral purposes. The latter would give it representation in the House, but not the Senate.

Statehood for DC would be a bit odd. A state consisting of all and only one city would be unique (though who knows: in 50 years, several Eastern-seaboard states might effectively qualify). DC would constitute a small state, though not much smaller than North Dakota. But neither of these are fantastic reasons for blocking DC statehood.

The best reason for blocking DC statehood probably has to do with keeping the national capitol separate from any of the states. There is surely a symbolic justification for this, and perhaps there are jurisprudential reasons (I am not nearly knowledgeable or sober enough to come up with one right now).
posted by Tullius at 7:15 PM on September 19, 2007


Because DC residents pay federal income tax.
So if Congress decides that DC residents no longer have to pay federal income tax, then those residents don't deserve representation in Congress?
I think it has to do with the distinction between a district and a territory.
What distinction?

I'm not claiming there is none (although I am not aware of what any are). But the appropriate distinction, related to this issue, is the one between states and non-states.
posted by Flunkie at 7:16 PM on September 19, 2007


And what if Congress decides to get rid of federal income tax entirely, going back to the system of tariffs and so forth that we have had for most of our existence? Then why DC and not Guam?
posted by Flunkie at 7:19 PM on September 19, 2007


The non-representation of American citizens living in D.C. is a National Embarrassment, but far from our worst.

You see, I'm not all that thrilled about the whole concept of the "2 Senators from Each State" concept to start with. In the first US Census in 1790, Virginia had just under 500,000 non-slave residents (slaves brought the number up to over 750,000) and Delaware had under 60,000 (no slave population estimate I could find). So, disregarding the 'three-fifth people", the biggest state was more than 8 times the population of the smallest, and thus the voters of Delaware had 8 times the influence in the Senate as the voters of Virginia. In the latest count, California has over 33,000,000 and Wyoming has around 500,000, that's a 66 to 1 ratio, giving every person in Wyoming 66 times as much clout in the Senate than a Californian. (No wonder former Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney has such disrespect for We The People.)

So granting the district two Senators would be good for them, but would make this nation's most undemocratic and anti-representational institution even more so.
posted by wendell at 7:33 PM on September 19, 2007


Sometimes this makes me so mad as a DC resident, that I feel like calling my congress person and senator. But they have no votes, so I have no power at all - in federal laws. And the feds have absolute control over DC law.

For instance DC is not trying to keep it's gun ban as a law - but may not be able to since congress thinks people should be able to own guns in DC (to hunt in Rock Creek Park?).

Another example is the republican congress trying to force DC to have a death penalty when the majority of DC citizens are against it.

Some laws in DC are so old and rediculous simply because DC government people are afraid to change anything - cause it will get reviewed by congress and who knows what shit will hit the fan.

DC is approximately 58% african American and 38% White and 4% Asian 1% American Indian. These figures include Hispanics who are not counted as a race.
posted by donaldekelly at 7:35 PM on September 19, 2007


Correction - DC is trying to keep it's gun ban.
posted by donaldekelly at 7:37 PM on September 19, 2007


giving every person in Wyoming 66 times as much clout in the Senate than a Californian.

But isn't the aim to give the state of Wyoming as much clout as the state of California?

Population density varies greatly across the US, from urban to rural areas. If all representation was based purely on individuals, how much representation would rural areas get in comparison to the cities? It would be just as unfair.
posted by Jimbob at 7:38 PM on September 19, 2007


So if Congress decides that DC residents no longer have to pay federal income tax, then those residents don't deserve representation in Congress?

It certainly does away with the "no taxation without representation" argument. And they'd have to change the license plates.

(I'm still bitter that I don't get to keep my "Taxation Without Representation" plates on my car now that I live on the other coast)

And what if Congress decides to get rid of federal income tax entirely, going back to the system of tariffs and so forth that we have had for most of our existence? Then why DC and not Guam?

See above.
posted by The World Famous at 7:41 PM on September 19, 2007


Arlington County, Virginia was originally part of the District of Columbia (this map shows how Arlington County's borders match up with DC's), and it was retroceded to Virginia in 1847. Given that precedent and the Constitution, I think the non-governmental parts of DC should be retroceded to Maryland and the government parts should stay separate. That would only require an act of Congress and approval from the State of Maryland, which is more likely than an amendment.

Delaware had under 60,000 (no slave population estimate I could find).
"The 1790 census showed 70 percent of the state's black population were slaves, and slaves were 15 percent of the state's total."

posted by kirkaracha at 7:46 PM on September 19, 2007


That would only require an act of Congress and approval from the State of Maryland, which is more likely than an amendment.

Why on earth would Maryland be willing to have DC and all its baggage be part of their state?
posted by The World Famous at 7:48 PM on September 19, 2007


It certainly does away with the "no taxation without representation" argument.
Sure, but the Constitution doesn't say anything about such an argument. It says states and only states get Congressional representation.

And (regarding "see above") if you're arguing that getting rid of the federal income tax entirely would get rid of all reason for DC to have representation, then why would, say, Alabama deserve representation?

"No taxation without representation" is a pithy phrase, with a large part in our history, and it's one that I am partial to, but like it or not, it's not what the Constitution has to say on the subject.
posted by Flunkie at 7:48 PM on September 19, 2007


donaldekelly: I actually have about as much information on the Parker case (the case on the gun ban likely to go before the supreme court this next term) as I do on the FPP, which is to say, I might be wrong about parts of it, but I'm interested in it, and know enough to talk about it.

The complaint comes from seven D.C. residents who would like to carry guns for protection - not for hunting in Rock Creek Park. They managed to round up the most sympathetic gun-advocates they could (A Granny who's house keeps getting broken into, a consistently threatened gay man, and a former D.C. cop living in a bad neighborhood, among them.)

Many liberals are actually hoping the court will side with Parker, because the only supreme court definition of the 2nd Amendment comes from the 30's, and is as uselessly vague as the amendment itself can sometimes seem. A clarification could mollify the NRA while giving local governments room to work on gun control within clearer bounds.

/end derail.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:55 PM on September 19, 2007


"I think the non-governmental parts of DC should be retroceded to Maryland and the government parts should stay separate."

I challenge you to draw those proposed state lines. People live all around the white house and the museums and the capitol and the monuments.

I suppose you could say anyone living on the national mall does not get to vote.

So, MD and DC would have to join in money and workers when it came to infrastructure - realistically (I think haveing considered this for only two minutes) you would have to have Maryland swallow up DC whole - except inside federal buildings.
posted by donaldekelly at 7:55 PM on September 19, 2007


Navelgazer

Good points on the gun ban

Living in DC I think it is a very foolish thing to have more people own guns - but there is something to that self protection argument, I suppose.
posted by donaldekelly at 7:59 PM on September 19, 2007


Sure, but the Constitution doesn't say anything about such an argument. It says states and only states get Congressional representation.

I don't remember saying that it does.

The arguments in favor of representation for DC are not arguments that the Constitution mandates it.

Though can you point me to the part of the Constitution that says "states and only states?" Or the part that defines the legal meaning of the term "state?" Or the Supreme Court case that holds that "states and only states" get a voting representative?

"No taxation without representation" is a pithy phrase, with a large part in our history, and it's one that I am partial to, but like it or not, it's not what the Constitution has to say on the subject.


You seem to be trying to argue with me about what the Constitution says. I don't know why you're doing this, but I suppose I can play along. I would definitely describe myself as a constitutional textualist when it comes to my opinions about constitutional jurisprudence. Nevertheless, I think your interpretation of the Constitution's language meaning "states and only states" is reading meaning into the text that is not there. Sure, if you insert a few "onlys," it can be changed to have that meaning. But the onlys just aren't there.
posted by The World Famous at 7:59 PM on September 19, 2007


realistically (I think haveing considered this for only two minutes) you would have to have Maryland swallow up DC whole - except inside federal buildings.

Realistically, what's the problem with this? Is it just historical? Ideological? Why does your capital have to not be in something you define as a "state"?

I assume there are other federally-run facilities in states around the US - millitary bases, things like that. How are they affected by being "in a state"? Why would Washington DC be any different, in practical terms?
posted by Jimbob at 7:59 PM on September 19, 2007


Clarification - I think it is foolish to have more DC residents and visitors own guns. It makes more sense out in rural Virginia or in Idaho.
posted by donaldekelly at 8:00 PM on September 19, 2007


also, donaldekelly, note that I have no idea what I think about Parker, I just have some background in it. (There was a moot court here on it recently.

And as for the question of why not Guam or Puerto Rico or, say, the U.S. Mariana Islands, which need it most - no reason at all. They all should have representation. They're attempts simply weren't up for a vote today.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:04 PM on September 19, 2007


"Realistically, what's the problem with this? Is it just historical? Ideological? Why does your capital have to not be in something you define as a "state"?

I assume there are other federally-run facilities in states around the US - millitary bases, things like that. How are they affected by being "in a state"? Why would Washington DC be any different, in practical terms?"

I don't think I would have a problem with joining Maryland. Maryland might have a problem with us joining them, though.

Another fun fact - DC cannot have a commuter tax - because all the people with power that really care about the issue live in Maryland or Virginia. So, Virginia and Maryland charge DC drivers tolls when they want to on their roads - but we are powerless to do the same.
posted by donaldekelly at 8:04 PM on September 19, 2007


I don't remember saying that it does.

The arguments in favor of representation for DC are not arguments that the Constitution mandates it.
Please note that my entire set of contributions to this thread has not been against representation for DC; it has been against a law, like the proposed one, as opposed to against a Constitutional amendment.
Though can you point me to the part of the Constitution that says "states and only states?"
Yes. In fact I have already done so in this thread. The Senate shall be two members from each state. The House shall be residents of states, elected by those states. Go back and look through the thread if you want the actual direct quotes.
You seem to be trying to argue with me about what the Constitution says. I don't know why you're doing this, but I suppose I can play along. I would definitely describe myself as a constitutional textualist when it comes to my opinions about constitutional jurisprudence. Nevertheless, I think your interpretation of the Constitution's language meaning "states and only states" is reading meaning into the text that is not there. Sure, if you insert a few "onlys," it can be changed to have that meaning. But the onlys just aren't there.
OK, I give in: I'll repeat the exact quotes:

"The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years".

What part of that are you claiming that "only" has to be inserted into, in order for my "interpretation" to be accurate?

It doesn't say "it shall have two Senators from each state". It says "it shall be two Senators from each state".

Same thing with the similar statement about the House. I lied, though, I'm not going to go back and bother getting it exactly. Please do it yourself and show me exactly where "only" has to be inserted. It's clear: nobody's a Representative except if he was a resident of the state that elected him.
posted by Flunkie at 8:09 PM on September 19, 2007


Cmon, guys. Let's not pretend that this is about anything other than the GOP being frightened of it's natural enemy: A black person with a ballot. I mean, seriously, does anybody here even think for a second that Republicans give two shits about the finely nuanced views of the constitution? Oh yeah, thats why they oppose DC statehood: because people voting flies in the face of freedom and democracy. *pphht*

One idea I had on the situation was for DC to apply for statehood as "The State of Columbia", but the area around the White House and capitol would remain "The District of Columbia" -- a city-within-a city-state, sort of like Vatican City.

Its an idea, anyway. Never gonna happen, of course. Gotta keep 'em on the plantation, knowhatImean boss?
posted by Avenger at 8:09 PM on September 19, 2007


Cmon, guys. Let's not pretend that this is about anything other than the GOP being frightened of it's natural enemy: A black person with a ballot.
I have no doubts -- absolutely none -- that the Republican Party has less than noble reasons for voting against this proposed law.

Does that mean that the law would be Constitutional?

Or that, if not, that we should ignore the fact that it would be unconstitutional?
posted by Flunkie at 8:12 PM on September 19, 2007


But isn't the aim to give the state of Wyoming as much clout as the state of California?

Given how arbitrarily the lines of the states are drawn, the entire concept of the Senate is absurd, a holdover from when the states were independent entities.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:15 PM on September 19, 2007


I dunno, flunkie, I'd be interested to see it pass, and then have the citizens of D.C. take it up as unconstitutional, and then go through the political means for amendment and ratification of statehood with everybody now on the uncomfortable position of taking the vote away from citizens, rather than the softer issue of giving it to them.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:17 PM on September 19, 2007


The whole idea of the Senate is absurd. You can justify any system of gov't based on your peculiar biases, which is what folks do when they talk about "cities", "urban", "rural", "wyoming", "CA".
Population density varies greatly across the US, from urban to rural areas. If all representation was based purely on individuals, how much representation would rural areas get in comparison to the cities? It would be just as unfair.
Says who? Why should rural areas get representation out of proportion to their population? What's wrong with one person one vote?

I mean, fine it's the way it's always been & it'll probably be that way when I go but don't try to serve me shit & tell me's a steak. What's your definition of "fair" that makes you say something like that?

OK, a bit more: you talk about "urban" vs "rural". What's makes that the essential distinction? Why not "black" vs "white", "poor" vs "rich", "east" vs "west"? The concept of minority rights is a more general one than the Connecticut Compromise.
posted by Wood at 8:35 PM on September 19, 2007


Hey, at least our hands aren't bloodied with the rest of America's crimes.

Only sort of kidding.
posted by Football Bat at 8:51 PM on September 19, 2007


The right answer, which won't happen until there are 60 democratic Senators, a democratic House, and a democratic President, is to admit the District of Columbia as a state, which will give it two senators and three reps. This will never happen if the GOP can possibly stop it.

Do they not teach civics or U.S. Government in high school anymore?

The Constitution can be amended four ways:
  1. Proposal by convention of States, ratification by State conventions
  2. Proposal by convention of States, ratification by state legislatures
  3. Proposal by Congress, ratification by State conventions
  4. Proposal by Congress, ratification by State legislatures
Notice anything about that? The States can amend the Constitution by themselves, but the Congress needs the ratification of the States. (This little thing called Federalism everyone forgets about.)

You need two-thirds in both the houses of Congress and three-fourths of States to pass an amendment, the way we 'usually' do it. Why would 38 States dilute their own influence and power in House and Senate?

Never going to happen.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:58 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


(Also the President has no role whatsoever in the amendment process.)
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:59 PM on September 19, 2007


Why should rural areas get representation out of proportion to their population?...Why not "black" vs "white", "poor" vs "rich", "east" vs "west"?

Because it's about area, not population, or any of the criteria for "minorities" you present.

There are certain decisions that can be made, laws that can be passed, that are of direct relevance to rural areas. There are other laws and policies which are of direct relevance to urban areas with dense populations.

If it was only "one person one vote", then one could imagine that the only issues that would be given any attention would be those of direct relevance to the densely populated areas.

Politics tend to be an all-or-nothing game; if, say, 20% of the population of a hypothetical country are "rural" and 80% are "urban", that doesn't mean that the attention of the government and legislature will be spent 20% of the time addressing rural issues and 80% of the time addressing urban areas. More likely, the 20% will be forgotten as politicians representing the 80% "majority" discover they don't need the support of their hick colleagues.
posted by Jimbob at 9:04 PM on September 19, 2007


Soooooo, when are we taking the Senators away from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, while we're discussing this?
posted by djspicerack at 9:56 PM on September 19, 2007


Steve_at_Linnwood: eriko's proposal was to admit D.C. as a state, not to amend the constitution. You don't need an amendment to admit a new state. (Article 4, Section 3)

Personally, I think they should just go ahead and pass this law, blatantly unconstitutional though it is. Maybe it'll get struck down; so what, that'll just increase the pressure to do it the right way. Let's have a good unconstitutional law for a change, to break up the monotony.
posted by equalpants at 10:12 PM on September 19, 2007


photo of their license plates
posted by brooklynexperiment at 10:36 PM on September 19, 2007


Maybe the solution to the lack of representation of DC isn't to give it the same rights as states. Instead, perhaps DC should get extra rights that states don't get that doesn't require a wholesale amendment of the Constitution. For example, perhaps DC residents could instead be legally allowed to tar and feather any Congressmen that casts a vote that's contrary to the majority opinion of DC residents.
posted by gyc at 11:44 PM on September 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's brilliant that the DC licence plates say "Taxation without Representation" on them. Makes me happy every time I see it.
posted by leahwrenn at 4:22 AM on September 20, 2007


As a DC resident, I can proudly say for my fellow Washingtonians, "fuck you America."
posted by Pollomacho at 4:42 AM on September 20, 2007


I was told that when the new license plates showed up, the Whitehouse made sure that all their vehicles had the older plates on them.
posted by Hactar at 10:19 AM on September 20, 2007


Clinton had them put on the limo before he handed over the reigns to Bush. Bush, of course, soon had them removed.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:54 PM on September 20, 2007


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