Yesterday (February 26) the U.S. Senate voted to give the District of Columbia full membership in the House of Representatives. Next week, the House votes and the legislation is expected to pass easily. We applaud this long overdue move.
Due to the District’s unique position as the seat of the federal government, voters in the District currently have a non-voting representative in Congress and no Senators. Curiously, its residents could not even vote in Presidential elections until 1961. The disenfranchisement of those voters seems to spit in the face of the cry that launched this country: “no taxation without representation.”
Opponents of the bill (and readers of the children’s book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,”) fear that granting the District a voting member in the House will embolden it to seek two seats in the Senate. We think this is an unfounded fear.
House membership is apportioned on population, and – on this basis – the District deserves a vote. Members of the Senate represent distinct entities known as states. The city of Washington, D.C., may have more population than the state of Wyoming, but it is still simply just that – a city.
Naturally, there are political considerations as well. Because D.C. is an entirely urban area, most concede that the Democrats would have a lock on both new seats, upsetting the balance of power in the 100-seat Senate. While we might welcome Democratic members as being two likely votes for health care reform, we’re not convinced the move would be fair.
Other proposals to level the playing field for the District include a movement to seek statehood for the District, but at first blush, that appears to be a stretch. With a total area of about 68 square miles, the District is a mere 4 percent of the size of our teeniest state to date – Rhode Island.
So how about this? Instead of creating a micro-state or city-state, Congress might move to have the District reabsorbed into Maryland, from whence it came. Others have suggested this, and it would certainly fully enfranchise the voters living there.
Regardless of the solution, it’s time to give the District a real voice.