- The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation - http://blog.heritage.org -

The Constitution is Clear: DC is a Federal City

Posted By Rory Cooper On February 24, 2009 @ 9:56 am In First Principles | Comments Disabled

The Constitution of the United States of America

  • Congress Doesn’t Have the Authority [1]: Congress lacks the constitutional authority to simply grant the District a voting representative, as the Constitution explicitly limits such representation to states alone. Members of Congress are bound by their oath [2] to reject proposals that violate the Constitution.
  • Article I, Section 2: “Representatives…shall be apportioned among the several States.” The District, as courts and Congress have long agreed, is not a state.
  • Article I, Section 8: “The Congress shall have power … To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States.” Congress has the same power over “forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings”—and it’s obvious that Congress can’t give a Navy pier or a federal building a seat in the House.
  • The Framers Had a Plan [3]: The Framers’ plan created a “federal town” designed to serve the needs of the federal government, as all Members of Congress would share the responsibility of protecting a city they live and work in.

Designed to Have Benefits [4]

  • Design: The Framers understood that the lack of a voting representative would be a prominent characteristic of a federal district, and that residency in such a district would be compensated by the attention given to the district by all the members of Congress, who would exercise collective responsibility for the federal district in which they worked and many lived.
  • Benefits: Our Founders’ intent has been realized. In the 19th Century, Congress funded the development of the city. In the 20th Century, it developed the National Mall and beautified the city. The rationale for the special treatment is that it is Congress’s collective responsibility [5] to promote the interests of the city.
  • Today’s Budget: Congress today funds more than 20% of the city’s operating budget and provide substantial funding for local amenities including the subway. In 2005, the city received $5.50 in federal spending for every dollar paid in federal taxes [4]; more than double what any actual state receives.
  • Eleanor Holmes Norton: The District’s delegate boasts on her website that the city will receive greater financial support from the “Stimulus” than many states.

Constitutional Amendment

  • Constitutional Amendment [1]: Congress cannot alter the Constitution by itself; an amendment, passed by two-thirds of the House and Senate and ratified by 38 states, is required.
  • Statehood: While the Constitution grants Congress authority to legislate for the District, this does not grant Congress the authority to violate other provisions of the Constitution. Thus, Congress can no more rely on this authority to add a representative in violation of the Art. I, Sec. 1 requirement that representatives be apportioned to the several “states” than it could rely on the Post Office Clause to ban criticism of the Post Office, which would violate of the First Amendment. Both would be unconstitutional acts.
  • Precedent: Granting the city a voice in presidential elections required an amendment, the 23rd. The last serious attempt to give the District voting representation was in the form of an amendment, which passed Congress but was not ratified by the required number of states.
  • Liberal Scholars Agree: Liberal Constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley [6], an advocate of direct congressional representation for DC, says it would be “ridiculous to suggest” that delegates to the Constitutional Convention would have worked out such specific language and rules for Congress “only to give the majority of Congress the right to create a new form of voting members from federal enclaves like the District.”

Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org

URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2009/02/24/the-constitution-is-clear-dc-is-a-federal-city/

URLs in this post:

[1] Congress Doesn’t Have the Authority: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Legalissues/lm37.cfm

[2] bound by their oath: http://www.foundry.org/2009/02/24/morning-bell-the-oath-and-the-district-of-columbia/

[3] The Framers Had a Plan: http://www.heritage.org/Research/LegalIssues/wm2300.cfm

[4] Designed to Have Benefits: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Thought/wm2304.cfm

[5] collective responsibility: http://www.foundry.org/2009/02/23/preserve-the-district-of-columbias-unique-constitutional-status/

[6] Jonathan Turley: http://www.heritage.org/Research/LegalIssues/lm37.cfm

Copyright © 2011 The Heritage Foundation. All rights reserved.