Friday, April 15, 2011

A proposal to amend the Constitution

Last week the Democrats and Republicans negotiated a budget. In that budget was a rider that prevented the 24th largest city in the U.S. from using locally collected taxes for a needle exchange, against the will of the city council provided a voucher program to fund students going to private schools, and restricted elective abortions. This was only possible because of a clause in the Constitution that give congress "exclusive legislation" over the District of Columbia.

This is an excerpt form Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;

It is outrageous and immoral that the Republicans used the budget of the D.C. as a pawn in the negotiations, and it is immoral that the Democrats allowed it. There is only one way to permanently protect the citizens for this abuse in the future; to amend the Constitution. Washington D.C. needs to be granted statehood. There are other reasons to take this action.

1. The original purpose of this clause in no longer valid. It was created to permit the federal government the power to provide their own protection from attack. In 1783 a mob of angry soldier attacked the Congress at Philadelphia leading James Madison to argue for this separate district.
2. The people of Washington D.C. are to a great extent disenfranchised, going against the very principal of the establishment of our government. The 23rd amendment gives them 3 electoral votes, but still do not have anyone in the congress.
3. They want statehood.
These first reasons are moral reasons. There are political reasons also.
4. In recent elections the district has voted overwhelmingly democratic.
5. Washington D.C. is similar to many inner cities, and as such tend to support progressive social issues. This is exemplified by the very items that our government took away from them. The Progressive Caucus is the largest caucus in the House of Representatives with 18.4% of all representatives belonging. There is a good chance that a representative from D.C. would join.

Some of the the arguments against allowing D.C. representation are these.
It is contrary to the Constitution. This argument ironically was used by G. W. Bush who clearly violated the constitution. But, this is why I propose the change be made to the Constitution.
It is too small to be given the full representation of statehood. This ignores that Wyoming has a smaller population, and no one suggests it is too small.
The Democratic party is accused of supporting this for self interest reasons. My short answer is "So?" This is clearly a self interest argument and suggesting it, especially after what was done in the budget, is hypocritical.

For both moral and political reasons, the Progressive Caucus and the Democratic Party should make the statehood of Washington D.C. an issue.

1 comment:

  1. You posted this 37 minutes ago, so I will be the first to comment on it:

    To assume that every clause of a document that was written in the late 18th century is sacred is ridiculous. A careful reading of the Constitution to determine its focus (or foci) should prove that the founding fathers favored universal enfranchisement of its citizenry (except, of course, for women and slaves).

    All your arguments are excellent ones.