WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Tuesday introduced bipartisan legislation that would for the first time give voting representation in the House of Representatives to the residents of the District of Columbia and would add a fourth congressional seat for the State of Utah, in accordance with 2000 census data.
Lieberman said he would hold a hearing on the D.C. House Voting Rights Act of 2007 (S.1257) sometime in May.
“I am most grateful for Senator Hatch’s support for this bill and am certain his co- sponsorship will lead to the breakthrough we’ve been searching for to bring an end to the 200-year disenfranchisement of District residents,” Lieberman said. “Today, we have an historic opportunity finally to bestow upon the citizens of the District of Columbia the civic entitlement every other tax-paying American citizen enjoys no matter where he or she resides – democracy’s most essential right, voting representation in Congress.”
“There is no question we feel slighted by the results of the 2000 census and this bill will provide Utah with the fourth seat we have sought for several years now,” Hatch said. “According to the 2000 Census, Utah missed an extra seat to North Carolina by just 856 people, which is an uncomfortably thin margin of error since Utah is seeing some of the fastest growth in the nation.”
Senator Robert Bennett, R-Utah., is also an original co-sponsor of the bill.
Non-voting D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., shepherded a similar proposal through the House Government Reform Committee on March 13, 2007, by a vote of 24-5. The full House approved the measure April 20, 2007, by a vote of 241-177.
The people of the District of Columbia deserve voting rights in part, the Senators said, because they pay taxes and die for the nation’s democracy like other voting citizens. In fact, they pay more taxes: Per capita, District residents have the second highest federal tax obligation. The District is also the only jurisdiction in the country that must seek congressional approval before spending locally-generated tax dollars. That means when Congress fails to pass appropriations bills before the beginning of the fiscal year, the District’s budget is essentially frozen.
“To have your voice heard by your government is central to a functioning democracy and fundamental to a free society,” Lieberman said. “It is democracy’s most essential right. By giving the citizens of the District of Columbia a genuine vote in the House, we will ensure not only that their voices will finally be fully heard. We will be correcting a most unfortunate oversight, and we will be following the imperative of our national democratic values.
“The House has acted. It is now time for the Senate to do the same.”
In 2002, Lieberman and 10 co-sponsors introduced the “No Taxation without Representation Act.” A hearing on the bill was held in the Governmental Affairs Committee, which Lieberman then chaired. It was the first hearing in Congress on D.C. voting rights since 1994. The bill was reported out of Committee, but the Senate never took action on it.