DC Voting Rights Bill Clears Committee in Historic Vote

WASHINGTON – Landmark legislation that would give full voting rights to the citizens of the District of Columbia passed out of the Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday and headed to the full Senate. The No Taxation Without Representation Act of 2002, (S. 3054), introduced by Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., calls for the election of two Senators and a member of the House of Representatives with rights equal to every other member of the Houase and Senate.

“We’re on a march and we’re not going to stop until we get it done,” Lieberman said after the historic vote. “This legislation would end a terrible injustice by giving District residents an equal voice in our democracy.”

The vote was 9-0, with every Democrat on the Committee voting in favor of the bill. No Republicans attended the meeting. The Committee action was the latest step in a long series of efforts by D.C. residents to gain full voting representation. The last major action in the Senate occurred in 1978 when a constitutional amendment was approved. Only 16 of the 38 states necessary adopted the amendment.

The Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on the issue in May and Lieberman introduced the bill October 3. Co-sponsoring are Senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Russel Feingold, D-Wisc., Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.

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. “It is high time the residents of the District of Columbia be granted their much-belated national birthright,” Lieberman said, noting the “painfully ironic” timing of the Committee vote as Congress prepares to authorize President Bush to use force against Iraq.

“If the President has to send our young men and women to Iraq, the sons and daughters of residents of this city will go willingly to serve and to sacrifice for their country,” Lieberman said, “as they have done throughout our nation’s history, even though they have been denied their rightful franchise.”

Lieberman said in World War I, the District suffered more casualties than three states; in World War II , they more than four states; in Korea, D.C. suffered more casualties than eight states and in Vietnam, the District suffered more casualties than 10 states. “The residents of this city fight and die for our democracy, but they cannot participate fully in it. That’s wrong,” Lieberman said. Calling Wednesday’s vote a “vote of conscience,” Lieberman added that “the right to be represented in the national legislature is fundamental to our core American values. We cannot allow this injustice to continue uncorrected.”