Lieberman, Feingold Introduce D.C. Voting Rights Bill

WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., and Senator Russell Feingold, D-Wisc., Thursday introduced the No Taxation Without Representation Act of 2003 to provide the residents of the District of Columbia with full voting representation in Congress. Joining as original sponsors were Senators Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Chuck Schumer D-N.Y., Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Mary Landrieu, D-La. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced a companion bill in the House.

The measure would provide District residents with the right to vote for two Senators and a member of Congress with rights equal to every other member of the House and Senate. The measure also calls for the permanent membership of the House of Representatives to be increased by one to 436, and permits D.C.’s current Delegate to the House of Representatives to continue in her current position until the elections contemplated by the bill take place. Despite the bill’s title, D.C. residents would not be exempt from paying income taxes.

“The 600,000 residents of the District of Columbia have lacked voting representation in Congress for over 200 years,” Lieberman said “This injustice is felt directly by District residents, but it is also a stain on the fabric of our democracy for the nation as a whole. The right to be represented in the national legislature is fundamental to our core American values. We cannot allow this injustice to continue uncorrected.” 

Said Feingold: “Our nation was born out of a struggle against taxation without representation. Most Americans enjoy the right to full voting representation in the U.S. Congress, but we continue to deny D.C. residents this fundamental American right. At a time when we are faced with so many grave decisions and when we are asking so much of every American, including those living in the District, it is shameful that we deny them the right to full representation in Congress. It is past time for Congress to act.”

In May 2002, the Governmental Affairs Committee, then chaired by Lieberman, held a hearing on D.C. voting rights, the first time since 1994 that Congress had held a hearing on the issue. Five months later, in October, the Committee cleared legislation identical to the bill introduced Thursday. Lieberman said it was particularly painful that, as the nation stands on the brink of a decision about war with Iraq, the citizens of Washington D.C. will serve their country with pride, as they have in every previous war. In fact, over 1,000 Army and Air National Guardsmen and women from the District have already been called upon to help in the war on terrorism. Yet, D.C. citizens cannot choose representatives to the legislature that governs them.

“The people of this city fight and die and pay for our democracy, but they cannot participate fully in it,” Lieberman said. “How can we countenance this? How can we promote democracy abroad effectively while denying it to hundreds of thousands of citizens in our nation’s capital?”

Prior to the District’s establishment in 1790, residents of the area who were eligible to vote had full representation in Congress. When the framers of the Constitution placed the Capital under the jurisdiction of the Congress, they gave Congress the responsibility of ensuring that D.C. citizens’ rights would be protected in the future, just as Congress protects the rights of all citizens throughout the land. For more than 200 years, Congress has failed to meet this obligation. Today, no other democratic nation denies the residents of its capital representation in the national legislature.

“It is high time the residents of the District of Columbia be granted their much-belated national birthright,” Lieberman said.