Government & Constitution

Dems’ Unconstitutional Plot to Invent New Congressmen

Editor’s note: By posting Congressman Mike Pence’s response to our criticism of his appalling support in favor of a vote in the House of Representatives for the District of Columbia, HUMAN EVENTS in no way meant to imply that we were supportive of the vote he had cast. We are totally opposed to it. Here’s more conservative condemnation of Pence’s action.

Right now, in the guise of a civil rights issue, the new Congress is attempting one of the most brazenly unconstitutional power grabs in our nation’s history. The move aims to create a new class of congressman and simply add the first of these to the 435 existing members of the United States House of Representatives.

This design will dilute the legitimate representation of the 50 states and create a dangerous precedent that, if allowed to stand, will make it legal for the federal government to alter the constitutionally defined makeup of the Congress itself with nothing more than a simple law, bypassing the required constitutional amendment process, which requires a two-thirds supermajority in Congress followed by the approval of three-fourths of the individual states.

The bill that threatens to open up this Pandora’s box goes by the Orwellian name "District of Columbia Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act of 2007" (H.R. 328). It has already passed committee and is expected shortly to be rammed through the full House by the Democrat leadership. The purpose of H.R. 328 is to give the District of Columbia a voting representative in the House. According to its supporters, the bill is necessary to correct the “injustice” of the residents of the capital not having their own congressional delegation.

The Democrats are arguing that the seat of the government needs its own representative in that same government, or else the capital might not have enough influence in the capitol. There are a few problems with this scheme.

The District of Columbia was created specifically so that the federal government could sit on a tiny patch of neutral territory — a territory without a delegation in Congress that might attempt to use its special position as the seat of the government to win an unfair advantage in Congress. During the drafting of the Constitution, the Founding Fathers had to face the issue of where to locate the capital of the newly formed United States. It was obvious to all that whatever city became the capital would enjoy a huge new influence over the politics of the nation and could use that influence to enrich itself with the dutiful help of its home state’s representatives in Congress. Because of this danger, and after a few nasty incidents of locals trying to bully the Congress in its temporary home in Philadelphia, it was decided that no state should hold the capital of all the United States.

The solution was the District of Columbia, a tiny parcel of land given to the new nation by Maryland and Virginia (Virginia’s portion was not used and was later reclaimed) that would serve as neutral ground, and would be run directly by Congress so as to avoid undue influence of the Congress by local government officials. It was the Founders’ intention to create a district without its own selfish voice in Congress — a non-state, without a state’s rights to elect congressmen and senators. H.R. 328 seeks to undo this clever compromise and turn the nation’s common capital into a partisan mini-state less than 1/20th the size of Rhode Island.

The second problem with the D.C. power grab is that, since it was the intention of the Founders to create a voteless non-state to host the capital, the Constitution clearly prohibits giving D.C. any vote in Congress. The district is defined as a possession of Congress in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which says 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 the government of the United States,”

The district is thus entitled to none of the rights of a state — for example, the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution does not apply to the district. (Of course, the individuals living in the district are entitled to all the individual rights of any American, just as an American living in other non-state territories such as Samoa or Guam would be, but the district cannot claim the rights of a state any more than Guam can.)

This means the federal district must not have a representative in either house of Congress, since the Constitution says that “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state,” (Article 1, section 3) and that “The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several states, and the electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature” (Article 1, section 2).

It would be difficult for the Constitution to be any more clear on this point: the Congress of the United States is composed of the representatives of the states and of the people that live in those states. (That’s why the country is called the “United States of America,” after all.) The District is not a state; it is therefore prohibited the congressmen due a state. But this Congress isn’t letting little things like the United States Constitution get in the way of adding one more representative to the House majority.

Formerly, such minor details of the law were respected by the Congress. When Congress desired in 1960 to let the population of D.C. vote in presidential elections — a right that does not affect the status of D.C. as a neutral location in debates between states — they did so by passing the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution, because they knew that sending a delegation to the Electoral College was a right reserved in the Constitution only to the states. The Constitution thus had to be changed to grant D.C. such an exception.

Likewise, when Congress last decided to try to undo the Founders’ work and make the District a special non-state player in Congress back in 1978, it did so honestly by passing a proposed amendment to the Constitution as required — the “District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment.” The amendment was then sent to the states for approval, where it was rejected overwhelmingly by more than two thirds of the states. It seems the states were very happy to have the capital remain neutral ground.

This clear rejection is why the Congress has given up on doing things the right way and has decided instead to try to ram through a bastardization of our Constitution. The reason for the urgency is that the new Democrat majority in Congress knows that the representative from the district will be a Democrat and they want to pack the Congress a bit to protect their razor-thin majority from the voters. Take that, “Culture of Corruption!”

By cloaking the issue as a “Voting Rights” campaign, they have given themselves enough of a smokescreen in the media to be able to proceed — and even to pick up the votes of a few gullible Republicans, such as Rep. Mike Pence. To try to disguise the “packing the Congress” aspect of the illegal scheme, H.R. 328 offers to give heavily Republican Utah an extra representative. Of course, Utah will certainly pick up this representative anyway after the 2010 Census (it fell just a few hundred illegal aliens short in the 2000 census). So in exchange for Utah getting its due a few years early, the Democrats hope to create a new guaranteed seat for the next few hundred years.

And of course that one seat is just the beginning. Once the precedent is set, the Congress can vote to give D.C. two representatives in Congress, or any number it wants since it’s claiming a new arbitrary power. And then there’s always the possibility of adding two senators for D.C. and really changing the playing field so that it slopes well leftward. In fact, a measure stating that senators will not be sought for D.C. is being stripped from the bill (even though it would have been non-binding anyway). Regarding the prohibition on seeking senators, Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s non-voting (for now) delegate to the House, openly admitted to the Washington Post, “We’ll never give up on full citizenship rights. That one is not going to make it.” Today we take an inch, tomorrow we take a mile.

But then that’s how such corrupt power seeking always works — once the foot is in the door, the crack is pushed open until you can shove two senators through — or for that matter, until you can shove Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and Samoa through — for why stop at one non-state territory having a delegation in Congress?

While the media frets over the privacy rights of terrorists, the dire consequences of a nativity scene too near a courthouse in Kentucky, or some other grave “threat” to the Constitution, they are silent while the party in power in Congress plots to upend the Constitutional definition of the legislative branch itself and begin packing the Congress with illegitimate imposters. Not since the Roman Emperor Caligula tried to make his horse a Consul, has an Imperial City seen such an insulting power grab. The horse, however, was less of a threat to Rome than the current jackasses in Congress are to America.

H.R. 328 must be stopped.

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