Democrats push to add voting House seat for DC

posted at 9:55 am on February 24, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Now that they control both elective branches of government, Democrats have quietly pushed through one of their long-held goals, a voting seat for DC in the House of Representatives.  In order to gain Republican support, they have drafted a bill that would also add another voting seat for Utah to maintain the partisan balance.  However, as Hugh Hewitt points out, the method of adding two seats to the House fails Constitutional muster:

Debate opened Monday on a bill to give the 600,000 people of Washington D.C. a full vote in the House. A new Democratic president, Barack Obama, and heftier Democratic majorities in Congress have improved the prospects for the decades-long effort that would certainly ensure another Democrat lawmaker in Congress.

Democrats outnumber Republicans by some 4-to-1 in the capital.

In a bit of horsetrading to offset the Democratic pickup, the bill would award a fourth House seat to Republican-leaning Utah, which narrowly missed getting that extra seat after the 2000 national census. With the two new seats, the House would have 437 representatives.

But can the House add seats without a Constitutional amendment, and separate from a census?

Opponents argue that the constitutional amendment route is still the only legitimate way to go, pointing to Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, which says members of the House should be chosen “by the people of the several states.” The District of Columbia, of course, is not a state.

On the other side, supporters cite language in the Constitution that gives Congress legislative authority over the District “in all cases whatsoever.” They contend that for 200 years federal courts have framed the District’s laws in terms of those that apply to the states.

Congress has authority over DC “in all cases whatsoever” — in managing the District.  It does not have the unilateral authority to enlarge itself, especially at the expense of other states.  Any addition of representatives to one or two states acts to dilute the voting power of the rest, which is why the Constitution ties representation to the Census.  If Congress wants to change that calculation, it has to come through the amendment process and get the approval of three-quarters of the states.

Why don’t the Democrats simply push for a Constitutional amendment?  They don’t have the votes, not in Congress and not in the states.  They tried that thirty-one years ago, when Democrats had larger majorities in both chambers of Congress than they do now, and they couldn’t get enough states to approve it.

Hugh wonders who would have standing to haul Congress into court to challenge the constitutionality of this bill, which will almost surely sail through Congress and get signed by Barack Obama.  I’d guess that one of the states would have to sue, claiming damage to its voting power in Congress with the addition of the two seats.  Perhaps that challenge would come first from Texas, but I’d prefer that a few states jumped in together to make the point even more clear.


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all of you racist conservative bigots are just trying to enact jim crow laws and disenfranchise minority voters! Don’t forget who won the election! D.C. should have a voice!

(yes, I’m being facetious)

but for real, this is reminding me of what Chavez is trying to do in Venezuela or Putin in Russia, etc. also reminiscent of how most dictators of fascist states have destroyed their constitutions, making a mockery out of the democratic process and inevitably claiming absolute power.

Paul_McD on February 24, 2009 at 11:59 AM

Please give me a Chavez. I can guarantee a 1000 yard shot.

FlyoverJ-HawkFan on February 24, 2009 at 12:04 PM

Bill to Give D.C. Residents a Vote in Congress Clears Senate Hurdle

http://www.foxnews.com/

OmahaConservative on February 24, 2009 at 12:04 PM

As someone who visits the D.C. area every holiday let me say that they SHOULD have a voting member of Congress. They pay federal income taxes like everyone else.

How quaint. As someone who lives in the D.C. area I am perturbed by this gross violation of constitutional law. This isn’t even one of those hazy, gray areas that lawyers can bicker about all day – it’s a fairly black-and-white violation of the Constitution. But, hey, what’s a constitution between friends?

paulzummo on February 24, 2009 at 12:06 PM

The District of Columbia’s two-century-long wait for a voice in Congress was a step closer to ending Tuesday with a crucial Senate vote to take up legislation giving the capital city’s 600,000 residents a full seat in the House.

The Senate voted 62-34, two more than needed, to begin debate on the measure that would increase the House to 437 members. It would give the Democratic-dominated city a new vote while adding a fourth seat to Republican-leaning Utah.

Key to the vote was that Democrats, who overwhelmingly support the bill, have seven more Senate seats than two years ago when the chamber fell three votes short of the 60 required to end a Republican-led filibuster.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/02/24/dc-voting-rights-advocates-smell-victory/

OmahaConservative on February 24, 2009 at 12:07 PM

The proper solution to this is to dissolve the District and give Washington to Maryland. Let the people of Washington be represented in the Maryland legislature, and by the Congressmen and Senators of Maryland.

But that doesn’t help the Democrats rig the system in their favor so forget that. Next, two Senators for DC — wait for it in 5-4-3-…

johnsteele on February 24, 2009 at 12:09 PM

Well, that was easy enough to predict. I’m surprised they aren’t going for two senate seats while they’re at it.

Blacklake on February 24, 2009 at 12:09 PM

paulzummo on February 24, 2009 at 12:06 PM

Always been that way. Since the dawn of America’s time. don’t like it read your history and shut the fuck up. DC is irrelevant. Built on a swamp and will always be a swamp. Unless a crack smoking pimp tells me otherwise. You have no choice or vote. It is your stupid fault for being so stupid as to live in a city that is irrelevant. Yes D.C. is irrelevant.

FlyoverJ-HawkFan on February 24, 2009 at 12:10 PM

Update…apparently the measure passed the cloture vote with 62 votes.

Grr.

JohnTant on February 24, 2009 at 12:12 PM

Well, that was easy enough to predict. I’m surprised they aren’t going for two senate seats while they’re at it.

Blacklake on February 24, 2009 at 12:09 PM

One step at a time, first a house seat and if that gets thru count on them going for two Senators.

Sending it back to Maryland is the constitutional solution. According the NRO column I linked earlier, the Utah seat would go away in the next census so we’d have 436 total seats (438 if they grab two senate seats). Utah would most likely gain a new seat at the expense of another state (PA, NY, MI or some other rust belt state).

Sparky on February 24, 2009 at 12:18 PM

As someone who visits the D.C. area every holiday let me say that they SHOULD have a voting member of Congress. They pay federal income taxes like everyone else.

DeathToMediaHacks on February 24, 2009 at 10:29 AM

As someone who actually knows what he’s talking about, let me say that nobody is supposed to be allowed to permanently live in the District. If they want representation, they should GTFO.

James on February 24, 2009 at 12:20 PM

As someone who visits the D.C. area every holiday let me say that they SHOULD have a voting member of Congress. They pay federal income taxes like everyone else.

As someone who lives in a Democrat dominated area let me say I SHOULD have a voting member of Congress. I pay my federal income taxes unlike the shlubs that keep voting in my local miscreant.

18-1 on February 24, 2009 at 12:25 PM

As someone who visits the D.C. area every holiday let me say that they SHOULD have a voting member of Congress. They pay federal income taxes like everyone else.

DeathToMediaHacks on February 24, 2009 at 10:29 AM

How does visiting the swampy slums give you any authority to decree that they “SHOULD have a voting member of Congress”?

OmahaConservative on February 24, 2009 at 12:30 PM

As someone who visits the D.C. area every holiday let me say that they SHOULD have a voting member of Congress. They pay federal income taxes like everyone else.

DeathToMediaHacks on February 24, 2009 at 10:29 AM

As someone who visits Mexico every year…

right2bright on February 24, 2009 at 12:30 PM

With the current upsurge in 10th Ammendment States rights motions in a large number of State Houses, it might be easy to get some traction to oppose this.

Cromagnum on February 24, 2009 at 12:32 PM

Done folks, done folks. I am waiting with baited breath until this friday. That’s when I find out if I am laid off. I have never been laid off ever. 6 years active duty and 10 years law enforcement. I don’t want to sit and whine about my circumstances if I am laid off, but I guarante I will join a cause.

FlyoverJ-HawkFan on February 24, 2009 at 11:57 AM

Good luck to you, I hope you don’t face those lay-offs…

right2bright on February 24, 2009 at 12:32 PM

…… As someone who visits Central America every day … and thats just the local jobsite here.

Cromagnum on February 24, 2009 at 12:34 PM

The House can expand the number of representatives; it has that power now. The limit of 435 is the result of a House Rule set in 1909 (IIRC) and the House could change that rule. They wouldn’t even need consent from the Senate.

But giving a representative to DC would require an amendment.

Steven Den Beste on February 24, 2009 at 12:41 PM

Since The Harpy Harridan’s neutered play things are so fond of spending other people’s money, why not just buy up all the land in Washington, D.C. and kick the former residents out. Then, build a wall around the Beltway and create a serene, park-like atmosphere to go with their Royal Entitlements. Just think, 535 separate Palaces for the Lords and Ladies of Congress to spend their days and nightly parties. Armed guards will, of course, ensure only approved entities are permitted entrance to the Royal Congressional Playground.

Then, fill the enclosed area with water and lock the gates.

SeniorD on February 24, 2009 at 12:51 PM

Errr, Flyover, did you happen to notice I was attacking the idea of giving DC voting rights?

paulzummo on February 24, 2009 at 1:02 PM

As someone who visits the D.C. area every holiday let me say that they SHOULD have a voting member of Congress. They pay federal income taxes like everyone else.

DeathToMediaHacks on February 24, 2009 at 10:29 AM

I went to the Dominican Republic for Christmas last year. Guess that makes me an expert on Dominican politics.

angryed on February 24, 2009 at 1:04 PM

Sorry, I guess I wasn’t clear in my comments after all. The gross violation was the idea of granting voting rights to DC. But yes, anyone who lives here – especially those who have moved here, which is pretty much everyone who lives here – knows the deal. If you’re fed up with having no representation in Congress, all you have to do is move about two miles in any direction, and there you have it.

paulzummo on February 24, 2009 at 1:05 PM

Actually, if the Democrats do this, doesn’t this make any legislation that the DC “representative” votes on automatically unconstitutional? Considering the way congress works, I don’t think you could limit it to just legistation that they cast the deciding vote on.

Conversely, there is nothing to stop congress from giving any region/group they want representatives – Guam, PR, the UN, Mars, etc.

18-1 on February 24, 2009 at 1:19 PM

I do think that it seems wrong for D.C. not to have representation. But on the other hand, this seems like a lot of trouble for something that’s not that big of a deal.

I like johnsteele’s suggestion. Is there any reason that D.C. needs to be its own nonstate entity? Couldnt we just roll it into an existing state and be done with it?

orange on February 24, 2009 at 1:40 PM

Do the ACLU strategy in reverse. Sue in multiple district court in most conservative states of union and get favorable decisions there. Then let it go up the SCOTUS. Then watch the fireworks as Judge Kennedy ties himself in knots over what the constitution means what it says, or whether we can look to Europe and the world in interpreting the plain words of the Constitution. If the US Constitution means what it says the democraps are sunk!

eaglewingz08 on February 24, 2009 at 1:41 PM

BTW, the one man one vote principles from lib cases 40 years ago, also should be a basis for such lawsuits.

eaglewingz08 on February 24, 2009 at 1:41 PM

I am so sick to death of these obvious democrap attempts to gain a super majority by any illegal means necessarry just to ensure they can keep turning our country into the USSR

It is comming time very soon for an uprising..

and it wont be peceful..

jcila on February 24, 2009 at 2:09 PM

all of you racist conservative bigots are just trying to enact jim crow laws and disenfranchise minority voters! Don’t forget who won the election! D.C. should have a voice!

(yes, I’m being facetious)

I’m not being facetious. It sounds like a good idea to me.

Anyone not physically disabled and on welfare has proven themselves mentally incompetent, and should be disenfranchised.

This might reduce the number of voters in DC quite a bit.

Kristopher on February 24, 2009 at 2:14 PM

IF Republicans are not doing to fight this tooth and nail, they should at least hold out for a better payoff.

Like having House seats apportioned based on the population of LEGAL residents. Remove illegals(sorry) undocumented Americans from the count and several states change count. And it would be hard to argue that states that lax in helping enforce legal requirements should benefit.

Counting only citizens for purposes of apportionment would shift about 9-10 seats. Mostly from California.

OBQuiet on February 24, 2009 at 2:35 PM

OOPs. I did not mean to imply that all non-citizens are illegals. There is a case to be made for both not counting illegals or, alternatively, counting only citizens. The results would be different.

OBQuiet on February 24, 2009 at 2:38 PM

Is there any reason that D.C. needs to be its own nonstate entity? Couldnt we just roll it into an existing state and be done with it?

Who in their right mind would take the crime-ridden, idiot politician-ridden basket case that is D.C.?

The only reason DC is not Camden, New Jersey or Gary, Indiana, or East St. Louis, Illinois is because of the Federal Government.

For sale cheap: Craphole City full of demanding, drug addicted layabouts. See how that sells on e-Bay.

NoDonkey on February 24, 2009 at 3:18 PM

The GOP has only 37 votes and no influence. Be thankful that the Utah cultists are getting a seat too to balance things out.

capitulus on February 24, 2009 at 3:33 PM

The GOP has only 37 votes and no influence. Be thankful that the Utah cultists are getting a seat too to balance things out.

To balance out the seat Sodom and Gomorrah are getting.

Don’t look back at DC when it is rightfully smitten.

NoDonkey on February 24, 2009 at 3:43 PM

capitulus on February 24, 2009 at 3:33 PM

Your religious bigotry aside, what they are offering here is simply vapor.

Utah narrowly missed getting the seat in 2000. Now, I don’t know about you, but, I’m willing to wager that the population of Utah has increased since 2000 which means they’d be getting that state through Constitutionally appointed means in 2010 anyway.

So, what you have here is Democrats saying, “Give us a guaranteed vote that we wouldn’t have in 2010 and we’ll give you a vote that you’ll have in 2010 anyway.”

It’s not exactly a fair trade.

And it’s definitely not constitutional.

Even if they can make the case that the Constitution gives Congress the right to appoint a congressman for D.C., it definitely does NOT give them the right to give Utah (a state) another one.

JadeNYU on February 24, 2009 at 3:50 PM

Another aspect of this “TRADE” is that Utah will get another seat anyway after the 2010 census probably at the expense of a north east Democrat. Great “TRADE” if you happen to be a Democrat.

burt on February 24, 2009 at 4:36 PM

Stephen Colbert and Eleanor Holmes Norton – Better Know a District

This is one of his best and relevant to the post. Even if you don’t like Colbert, it’s worth it in many ways.

nottakingsides on February 24, 2009 at 11:13 AM

When I first heard of this . . this is exactly where my mind went. And for that alone I say no.

If DC gets one then every territory should get one as well. . . oh that’s what’s next I tells ya.

- The Cat

MirCat on February 24, 2009 at 6:51 PM

Constitution? We don’t need no stinking constitution.

Ever since the SCOTUS filibuster, etc. there is no rule of law. Weak a$$ RINOs will never think to file suit in the “9th Circuit Court of Appeals” or anywhere else to fight against the unconstitutionality of anything. We’ll just make it up as we go along, it’s called anarchy. The way it works, the ruling party makes all the rules (if their Democrats) and they get to do whatever they want; then when the opposition wins the ruling party (Democrats) scream bloody murder about unconstitutionality about things that aren’t unconstitutional and weak a$$ RINOs set up the Gang of 14 and do whatever the ruling party wants to do.

Get it?

Sultry Beauty on February 24, 2009 at 6:56 PM

This is why Demint of SC is going to attach the Fairness Doctrine amendment to this bill.

Clyde5445 on February 24, 2009 at 8:11 PM

Well, I’ve read the legislation and some news articles and I’ve got a few observations:

* The bill is S. 160, which was introduced by Sen. Lieberman and which was already cosponsored by three Republicans (Voinovich, Specter, and Hatch).

* S. 160 passed cloture by a vote of 62-34. The Republicans voting for it were Hatch (UT), Lugar (IN), Voinovich (OH), Specter (PA), Collins (ME), Snowe (ME), Murkowski (AK), and Cochran (MS). Democrats voting against were Byrd (WV) and Baucus (MT).

* According to the legislation, the House would be permanently increased in size to 437 members from its current 435. This would have the side effect of increasing the electoral college by 1 member; this means that there would be an odd number of members of the electoral college, so ties become much less likely. If I believed this bill were remotely constitutional, I would consider this a definite plus.

* The new seats wouldn’t appear until January 3, 2011: the new members would be elected as part of the general election of 2010.

* Utah would have to redistrict for the 2010 House elections, then redistrict again for the 2012 House elections.

* The bill contains explicit provisions for challenges to its constitutionality, specifying that any such challenges would be heard in the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, that such challenge could only be appealed to the Supreme Court, and the the D.C. Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court are supposed to expedite any such case.

* The bill contains explicit provisions to abolish D.C.’s “shadow representative” upon its passage. I would actually root for this to pass and then be found unconstitutional just to get rid of this farce, were it not for the fact that the bill contains a nonseverability provision that basically repeals the whole bill if any part of it is found unconstitutional.

* Right now, the state that would have the strongest standing to sue against this law is … New York. If the House were to be expanded to 437 members, then seat 436 goes to Utah and 437 is supposed to go to New York. Now, it’s reasonable to assume that a New York state government run by Democrats will support this new law instead of trying to grab the seat for itself (although stranger things have happened). However, this only applies for about two years; after the 2010 Census, seat 437 will almost certainly belong to another state and it is possible that that state will have a Republican government eager to challenge it.

dljessup on February 24, 2009 at 9:27 PM

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