Sunday, March 15, 2009

It depends on what the meaning of "state" is, I guess

Op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on the unconstitutionality of the proposed D.C. Voting Rights Act:
President Barack Obama has the wind in his sails. After a decisive victory, he has launched the greatest expansion of federal government in American history. Republicans, still licking their wounds from November's election, have yet to form an effective political opposition. For now, that leaves the Constitution's structural limits on governmental power as the only potent brake on government further reshaping our society.

Accordingly, Republicans should be the first to insist that these requirements be strictly observed. Unfortunately, a number of congressional Republicans already are abandoning constitutional fidelity by supporting the D.C. Voting Rights Act. The fact that the Act's objective could easily be secured in a constitutionally proper manner makes their support all the worse.

The D.C. Voting Rights Act, which passed by a 61-37 vote in the Senate and is now being considered in the House of Representatives, would grant Washington, D.C., voting representation in that body. The District's current delegate to Congress would be transformed into an actual voting member of the House. In addition, and as an obvious sop to Republican sensibilities, the state of Utah would be awarded an additional House seat. (This would have happened in any case as a projected result of the reapportionment process triggered by the 2010 census.)

The Constitution, however, limits representation in Congress to the people of the states. This requirement applies both to the Senate and the House. With regard to the House, Article I, Section 2 provides that "The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States."

Washington, D.C., of course, is not a state. Indeed, the Constitution's Framers deliberately established the federal capital as a non-state over which Congress would have "exclusive" legislative authority. ...
Today, Congress cannot avoid the Framers' intent, or the Constitution's plain language, by simply "considering" the District of Columbia to be a congressional district. Yet this is precisely the D.C. Voting Rights Act approach. If Congress sidesteps clear constitutional requirements, then no provision of the Constitution would be immune from such casual revision.

Congress also cannot grant the District of Columbia a voting House member based upon Congress's constitutional right to "be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members" -- an article that has been touted by the Act's supporters. This merely permits each chamber to determine whether the qualifications established by the Constitution -- with respect to age, citizenship and residence -- have been met. Congress cannot excuse or dispense any qualification, including and especially the requirement that House members be elected by the people of the states.

If the District of Columbia is to have voting representation in the House, the Constitution must first be amended. ...

Op-ed here. I sometimes wonder if our wanna-be rulers (elected servants, dammit!) even know we have a Constitution.

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