Today, the Senate began debate on S. 160, a bill to “provide the District of Columbia a voting seat and the State of Utah an additional seat in the House of Representatives.” DCist reports that the chamber will likely hold the cloture vote tomorrow.
In a new piece in the National Review, former Justice Department official Hans von Spakovsky tries to make the case that D.C. residents don’t deserve full federal voting rights. Spakovsky, of course, has a history of vote suppression allegations while serving in the Bush administration.
In his piece, Spakovsky goes beyond the traditional constitutionality claim made by opponents, such as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). He claims that D.C. residents don’t need a full voting member in Congress because every federal lawmaker is supposedly looking out for their best interests. Toward the end, he also claims that this bill — supported by Republicans such as Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) — is nothing more than a “raw grab at political power” by Democrats.
ThinkProgress contacted DC Vote Communications Director Jaline Quinto, who offered her response to Spakovsky’s claims:
SPAKOVSKY: And while statehood supporters cite the famous American rallying cry “no taxation without representation,” that is a false analogy. The entire Congress represents the interests of the District, because every single member of Congress works in the District.
QUINTO: Members of Congress are accountable to the people who elect them – their constituents. DC residents have no voting member in Congress and therefore no voting members who are beholden to them. The assumption that all members of Congress act in the best interests of DC residents simply because they work in the District is vastly untrue. In many cases, it’s been quite the opposite. Congress routinely tries to overturn laws that DC residents and the District government have tried to implement. When DC attempted to use its own tax revenue to combat the rising HIV infection rate through a needle-exchange program, Congress stepped in to stop it even though DC residents supported the measure. That’s just one example of many.
SPAKOVSKY: Every year, Congress appropriates millions of dollars for the District. D.C. did so well under the stimulus bill that Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s nonvoting representative, crowed on her website that “Norton’s stimulus package puts D.C. ahead of seven states.” The District has a smaller population than 49 of the states (Wyoming being the exception). Read more