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Sanford D. Horn | D.C. – First in War, First in Peace, Never in Congress

“If the District of Columbia deserves a member of the House of Representatives, they deserve two senators as well,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) earlier in February.
I wholeheartedly agree with the former GOP presidential nominee. Now before those of you who know my staunch opposition to D.C. being awarded a voting member of Congress go into shock, notice the premise to the entire statement: IF – the biggest two-letter word in the English language. Yes, IF D.C. deserves, but D.C. does not deserve a voting member in Congress or two senators. Besides, every time Washington gets senators they up and leave for places like Minnesota and Texas!

And let’s not overlook a little thing called the Constitution of the United States of America.

Article I, Section 2: “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States…”

Article I, Section 3: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state…”

Article I, Sections 2 and 3 clearly outlines that only states are to be represented by members of the two houses of Congress, and D.C. is most certainly not a state. At one time, D.C. consisted of land from both Maryland and Virginia; today just former Maryland land comprises the seat of the nation’s government. Perhaps that land should revert back to the Free State and the residents of D.C. should be citizens of Maryland. Then, upon the counting of the census in 2010, Maryland would more than likely receive an additional member of Congress and the state losing the most population would drop one of its members. It has been done that way for years.

In a Washington Post column penned by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, he opined that the residents of D.C. “are the successors to the People of the several states – people of my home state, Maryland, who were stripped of their voting rights.” All the more reason to return them to Maryland, not, as Hoyer supports, give them a congressional member.

Article I, Section 2: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union…”

If D.C. residents do not get a member of Congress, they should not be required to pay federal taxes or be subject to a military draft should one be necessary in the future. This would be fair, and to some extent has legs, as Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) is willing to exempt Washingtonians from “federal income tax[es] until a constitutional amendment can be passed,” according to Marc Fisher of the Washington Post. Gohmert made no mention regarding D.C. residents potential military service.

And, by the way, a constitutional amendment would be the proper path to take for granting a member of Congress to D.C., but supporters have seen the writing on the wall in previous failed attempts. The last attempt suffered defeat in 1985 when the amendment passed both houses in 1978, but the clock expired after a seven year limit to garner three-quarters of the state legislatures approval failed with only 16 states on board. This new vote by Congress is an attempt to sneak in through the back door.

Article I, Section 8: “…The Congress shall have Power 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 Government of the United States…”

Hoyer is using this Section as his way in the front door suggesting that the House can vote to grant D.C. its member of Congress. Why then, has this interpretation not been used in the past? It would seem that this Section grants Congress the authority to govern over the District and write and pass its laws.

The parenthetical “not exceeding ten Miles square” is interesting as if the framers limited the size of the seat of the nation’s government, it would not want to encourage a constant burgeoning of population to overflow its borders. Instead, it would seem the framers sought to limit the size of the government and thus the number of people who served in it. The framers did not intend to have people make the District a permanent home, instead it expected members of Congress would come to D.C. serve a couple of terms and then return to their lives as farmers, small businessmen, clerics, doctors, etc. Likewise their staffs, small that they were to be, as well as the people in the employ of the federal government. Constant turnover would keep people from growing roots in D.C. and losing touch with the folks back home.

Sadly, this has not happened and the District is 69 square miles. Carve out the residential neighborhoods including perimeter shopping and non-government businesses for annexation by Maryland. Those with concerns about its shape only need to look at some of the terribly misshapen Congressional districts in the name of seat preservation. It’s enough to cause Elbridge Gerry to turn over in his grave.

Article II, Section 1: “…Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the Number of Senators and Representatives to which the state may be entitled in the Congress…”

See Article I, Sections 2 and 3.

Amendment XXIII: “The District constituting the seat of the Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct: A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole numbers of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State…” (Ratified March 29, 1961; all three of the District of Columbia’s electoral votes have been cast for the Democratic candidate for president in every election since 1964.)

As far as I am concerned, the 23rd Amendment is in direct violation of the Constitution – Article II, Section 1, and the desires of the framers by awarding D.C. its three electoral votes. The District of Columbia was designed to be the seat of the government and not a permanent dwelling for the masses.

The notion of a compromise, as suggested by former Congressman Tom Davis (R-Va.), to give a member of Congress to D.C. and one to Utah simply because the Beehive State would be the next state due an additional member plays fast and loose with the Constitution. Would this even be up for discussion if Utah were not such an overwhelmingly Republican state? But that it is, does not guarantee its permanence. This leads down the slippery slope which can only end up with D.C. being granted two federal senators. This would be two virtually permanent Democratic strongholds as voters in D.C. trend eight to one for the Democrats.

Bottom line is DC is not a state and should not have state status, for that same slippery slope may lead to American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Those territories and possessions are not states either, but what the hell, let’s give them statehood privileges of congressmen and senators as well. Sound silly? So does nationalization of the banks, but that frightening possible reality will have to be the subject of another column on another day.


– Column by Sanford D. Horn