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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

DC Vote Bill Killed in the Senate

[Update]Roll Call can be found here.

The Senate voted today and killed, S.1257, a bill that would have granted two more voting seats in Congress, one for Utah and one for Washington DC.

The vote was 57-42, falling 3 votes short of the sixty that was needed, there was also a veto threat from the President which then would have required the Senate to have 67 votes to override, so the bill was truly dead anyway.

The House passed its version of the voting rights bill (HR 1905) on April 19 by a 241-177 vote.

McConnell on Monday took time on the Senate floor to speak out against the bill, saying he's not seeking to deny residents the right to vote.

"My opposition to this bill rests instead on a single all-important fact: It is clearly and unambiguously unconstitutional. It contravenes what the framers wrote, what they intended, what the courts have always held, and the way Congress has always acted in the past," McConnell said.

"And to vote for it would violate our oath of office, in which we solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution. If the residents of the District are to get a member for themselves, they have a remedy: amend the Constitution. But the members of this body derive their authority from the Constitution. We are its servants and guardians. And we have no authority to change it on our own," he said.

McConnell also pointed to the Constitution's Article I, Section 8 language — 220 years old as of Monday — that allowed Congress to create the District of Columbia.

The paragraph establishing the District reads: "The Congress shall have the power ... to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding 10 miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States ... .

"The framers clearly envisioned the federal city as a separate entity from the states, as an entity they themselves would control," McConnell said.

McConnell's whole speech on the floor can be found here.

“So the framers spelled it out explicitly in the original text. They also explained what they meant. The District of Columbia has been many things: a federal enclave, a federal city, even, under President Johnson, a federal agency. But the District of Columbia has never been a state. And for this reason, according to the Constitution, it does not get congressional representation.

“This is not a novel interpretation of the text. The historical record is full of proof that Congress and the courts have always interpreted the Constitution as denying congressional representation to residents of the federal district. When Congress decided to change the way senators are elected in the early 1900s, they did it the right way, through the amendment process. And, consistent with Article 1, Section 2, this amendment understands as eligible for representation only those Americans who reside in a state.

“Half a century later, in 1961, the 23rd Amendment was ratified, granting residents of the District the right to vote in presidential elections. It states: ‘The District constituting the seat of government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct …’

“Let me stop right there. The District, you’ll notice, is referred to here yet again not as a state but as, in the words of the amendment, ‘the seat of government.’ It continues: ‘A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of senators and representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a state …’

“The language here could not be more explicit: to which the District would be entitled, meaning of course that it is not entitled, and if it were a state, meaning, or course, that it is not a state.

The issue can be revisited by the amendment process.

McConnell did offer another potential avenue if the current measure fails. He said he wasn't opposed to amending the Constitution to allow for D.C. voting rights, according to CongressDaily. "If we want to give the residents representation, then we should begin the amendment process," he said. "But we cannot, we must not, circumvent the Constitution by arrogating powers to ourselves that it does not give us itself."

Some constitutional back-up could come from Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who told the Post he plans to vote against cloture today and instead introduce a constitutional amendment that would grant the District statehood status.

This remedy has existed the whole time, yet they wasted the time and effort on a vote today, knowing that it would be vetoed and that they did not have the votes to override the veto.

Just one more example of spoiling for a fight instead of using the legal means available to them as a body... much better to have sound bites that to actually get something done in a legal manner consistent with the constitution and I am saying this about BOTH sides of the aisle here.

Our tax dollars at work folks!!!!