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Opening Arguments

Dog days

Whether to give Washington, D.C., a real, voting member of Congress is the latest bone Democrats and Republicans are fighting over.

Dissatisfied with the status quo but unable to alter it with a constitutional amendment, Washingtonians finally exclaimed: Amendment? We don't need no stinkin' amendment!

The rationale is that the Constitution, which provides for the capital, gives Congress the power "to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District." Therefore, it may do just about anything it pleases, including give the District a vote in the House.

But the argument proves too much. 

 Most would (or should) agree that the present situation is intolerable, since "taxation without representation" have been fighting words for all of this country's history. Those who insist on the quaint notion of adhering to the Constitution say an amendment to that document should be required, since it plainly says that members of the House of Representatives are to be chosen by the people of the states. Some suggest that all D.C. nonfederal sections simply be given back to Maryland, which would be difficult for several reasons (today's new word -- retrocede).

So, why not do the obvious? If there should be no taxation without representation, unless and until one of the vote-enabling solutions is achieved, stop charging D.C. residents federal taxes. We already do this for other places that have American citizens but no voting member of Congress, such as Puerto Rico and Guam, so it wouldn't exactly be breaking new ground.

The Reason article linked to, by the way, opens with one of the better Abraham Lincoln anecdotes:

Legend has it that Abraham Lincoln once posed a riddle: How many legs does a dog have if you count his tail as a leg? Came the answer, "Five." Replied Lincoln, "No, four. Counting a tail as a leg doesn't make it a leg."


Thu, 02/26/2009 - 2:00pm

We could make it a state, I suppose.

tim zank
Thu, 02/26/2009 - 7:01pm

Would we have 58 states then?

Just askin...

William Larsen
Mon, 03/02/2009 - 2:20pm

I seem to recall from my government class way back when, that DC did not get representation because they did not want the capital to be a political foot ball. It was supposed to be neutral. I am pretty sure the constitution is clear, as I recall only STATES have representations. Are they going to amend the Constitution of the United States?