Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

With Obama at Helm, D.C. Expects a Vote

Two hundred thirty-three years after the rest of the nation stopped chanting, “No taxation without representation,” the District of Columbia may finally follow suit.

With the election of Barack Obama to the U.S. presidency and the Democrats securing more seats in Congress, D.C. will likely gain representation in Congress in the coming year.

Advocates of the D.C. Voting Rights Act will now be able to secure the 60 Senate votes necessary to ensure safe passage. Obama has openly supported the legislation and during his campaign, pledged to sign the bill, according to The Washington Post.

The D.C. Voting Rights Act addresses the issue that 600,000 residents of the District assume the many responsibilities of citizens, including paying taxes, but are not awarded the equal representation in Congress which is afforded to all citizens in the United States.

“The coming year carries great promise for completing the home rule that Congress began when it enacted the Home Rule Act of 1973,” Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said in a statement. “President Barack Obama’s first year in office is the first time while I have served the District that we have a fair chance to get the House [seat].”

While in 2007 the legislation comfortably passed in the House and received the majority vote in the Senate to move it to a final vote, a filibuster led by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ultimately blocked the bill. Next year however, with a greater majority in the Senate and a Democratic president, supporters are very optimistic.

The legislation introduced last May stipulated a compromise that with the addition of a voting representative for the district, a seat in the House will also be added for Utah, a historically Republican state.

It is likely this same legislation will also be introduced in the new Congress.

The D.C. Voting Rights Act would only increase representation in the House of Representatives, not in the Senate.

“It’s likely that city leaders will determine that it is the way to get something now. It’s already cleared all the hurdles to get bipartisan support,” Joe Sternlieb, co-founder of D.C. Vote, a leading D.C. voting rights advocacy organization, said. “It is possible that more equality could be achieved, but not all the groundwork has been laid.”

While Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), one of the co-sponsors of the D.C. Voting Rights Act and a strong proponent for bipartisan support, will be retiring from Congress this year, he will continue to encourage Republicans to support the bill that is to be reintroduced in the next Congress, according to Brian McNicoll, Davis’ communications director.

“I think that what he would like to see is it stay the same legislation with the seat for Utah and the seeking of only representation in the House, not the Senate,” McNicoll said.

However, it is clear the ultimate goal for advocates of D.C. voting rights is full representation in the House, as well as the Senate.

The pathway to the final goal, according to Walter Smith, executive director of the D.C. Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, a non-profit organization dedicated to solving the policy problems D.C. residents face, is still unclear.

“I think it is going to take a little time to figure out which of those routes gets us to full voting representation. It’s going to take some conversation with the new leadership,” Smith said. “D.C. has been waiting 200 years for this, so people will want to wait a few extra days or even a month or two, to get it right. Most people are confident that we’ll pass some bill in the next Congress, and it’s just a matter of time before we get full voting representation.”

If the legislation is passed in Congress, it is likely to still face contention in the Supreme Court on its constitutionality. When the Constitution was drafted in 1787, the founding fathers did not explicitly state the residents of the District of Colombia would receive democratic representation in Congress. Whether this was intentional or mere oversight, the ruling will depend on how broadly or narrowly the Supreme Court Justices interpret the Constitution.

If passed, this legislation is likely to affect Georgetown University due to increased advocacy for the concerns of the Washington, D.C., area in Congress.

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