Thursday, May 05, 2005

D.C. statehood

Wyoming has a population of about 500,000 people and they have one Congressman and two U.S. Senators. The District of Columbia has a population of 575,000 people and they have no representation in either the House or the Senate. Not only do they not get a vote on matters affecting the nation as a whole, they don’t even have control over their own budget. Since they are not a state or part of a state, their budget is controlled by a Congressional committee comprised of members from other districts.
No other country in the world has seen fit to disenfranchise the residents living in their capital city, but we have tolerated this situation here for 200 years. You can see a complete history of D.C. statehood efforts here.

Now comes news of a bi-partisan effort to give the residents of D.C. at least some representation in Congress. U.S. Rep. Thomas Davis, R-Va., is sponsoring legislation that would add two new seats to the House of Representatives - 1 in D.C., which would be solidly Democratic, and 1 in Utah, which is heavily Republican.

Under Mr. Davis's bill, the House would grow by two members to 437 after the November 2006 election. Washington would gain one seat, with the other going to the state next in line for a Congressional seat, namely Utah, which narrowly missed gaining a fourth House seat after the last reapportionment.
After the 2010 Census, the House would revert to 435 members, with Washington retaining its seat and Utah most likely keeping its additional seat because of population growth. Two seats would be lost in other states.

I think Davis’ bill would seem to be a reasonable compromise. One of the biggest sticking points to D.C. statehood has been Republican partisan opposition on the grounds that any representation coming out of D.C. would be solidly Democratic. Democrats should jump at this opportunity to break the inertia on this issue
Unfortunately, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has come out against the bill on the grounds that mid-term redistricting in Utah right now could endanger that state’s lone Democrat Jim Matheson. But Utah Democrats says Matheson’s district was already redrawn to be as Republican as possible and he won re-election anyway. So they say ‘bring it on.’

I would prefer to see D.C. get a House seat and two U.S. Senators, just like solidly Republican Wyoming, but half a glass is better than nothing at all, especially at a time when Republicans dominate every branch of government. So I would hope that Pelosi would withdraw her objections to the bill and urge Democrats to get on board with this effort.

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