The Washington Post reports that the movement among Washingtonians to garner Congressional representation is at an all-time high. Senators Lieberman and Hatch have introduced a bill that would give one House seat to DC and another to Utah (the former being assuredly Democrat, the latter being assuredly Republican). The White House has threatened a veto on the grounds that the legislation is unconstitutional.
The constitutional issue arises because representation in the House (Art. I, Sec. 2) is limited to the States (of which DC is not): “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.” Likewise, Art. I, Sec. 3 limits representation in the Senate to states: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state….”
It is certainly odd that the Hatch/Lieberman bill would give Washingtonians a right to Congressional, but not Senatorial, represenation, as the constitutional issues are identical. If DC is considered to be a state for the purposes of Art. I, Sec. 2, then it is also entitled to two senators.
The Sixteenth Amendment, which gives the federal government the right to tax individuals, is limited to the members of the States: ” The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” Yet, DC residents pay federal income tax.
Of course, this is being framed in terms of civil rights, akin to the struggles of African-Americans and women to gain suffrage rights. This misses the point: Washingtonians are more than able to live in Virginia or Maryland if they so desire; one can hardly cease being female or cease being black. Furthermore, the claims that the Founders did not intend to disenfranchise DC residents is entirely without merit. If such was never the intention, there would have been two Senators and at least one Congressman from DC during the early days of America: this issue is not like private ownership of an AK-47, which was, arguably, not foreseen when the Second Amendment was passed.
The solution is quite simple. Washingtonians, instead of attempting to thwart the Constitution, should sue for the right to not pay federal income tax. If Washington, DC is a “state” for the purposes of the Sixteenth Amendment, then it should be a “state” for the purposes of Art. I. The more likely alternative is that the XVI will be held to not apply to DC: the “state” language is unambiguous and should be read to be akin to similar language throughout the rest of the document.
The other alternative is an amendment to the Constitution, which is how black suffrage, federal income tax, and women’s suffrage came into being – those things found to be good and necessary by modern society but not by the Founders. Our forefathers had the wisdom to predict that changes to the structure of government would be necessary, so they implemented an amendment process. What is unacceptable is for Congress to ignore that amendment process and ignore the mandates of history to suit their own political ends.