Souder's Downfall Means D.C. Loses Congressional Foe
||Washington Post (DC)
||Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Souder's downfall means D.C. loses congressional foe
With the resignation of Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) from the House of Representatives, the District of Columbia loses one of its most determined congressional meddlers.
Souder today announced his resignation after it emerged that he had had an affair with a part-time staffer. He leaves Congress on Friday.
Local self-determination advocates will remember Souder "as one of the more outspoken people who was willing to impose his own views over the objections of the elected representatives and people of the District," says Walter Smith, executive director of D.C. Appleseed, a think tank that advocates for D.C. voting rights.
At least one city official made no attempt to disguise his glee at Souder's demise.
"Ding-dong, the witch is dead," said At-Large Council member David A. Catania (I) this afternoon. "You could almost hyperventilate explaining the hypocrisy of this man's career....I'm sorry for his wife, but I'm glad it happened to him. It couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy."
Souder joins a litany of disgraced members of Congress who took an interest in city affairs only to see their political careers succumb to other types of affairs. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), like Souder, pushed to overhaul city gun laws before his infamous 2007 arrest in a Minneapolis airport bathroom. More recently, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) sponsored the pro-gun amendment that ultimately derailed a voting-rights bill months before allegations of an affair and subsequent hush-money payoffs tarnished his once-rising star.
Souder's interference in District affairs dates back at least to 2004, when he sponsored the House version of the "D.C. Personal Protection Act," a measure that would have ended the then-extant city ban on handguns and automatic weapons over the objections of local officials. That bill ended up passing the House, but it never reached the Senate floor. A similar bill passed the House in the subsequent Congress, in 2005, but again it did not get floor consideration in the upper house.
Three years later, the Supreme Court did much of what Souder and his allies had sought, striking down the handgun ban in the Heller v. D.C. decision. But the reaction of the District's elected officials to that ruling didn't go far enough for Souder. "Sadly, since the announcement of the Heller decision, we have seen the D.C. Council continue to thumb its nose at the Constitution and defy a clear Supreme Court order by largely maintaining its draconian handgun ban," he wrote in a letter to the Post in 2008. He proceeded to introduce legislation that again would remove virtually all local gun laws. Last month, Souder once again co-introduced a House bill aiming to force compliance with the Heller ruling.
Guns weren't the only D.C. issue to animate the Hoosier.
Souder also turned his attention to needle exchange. Long sought by city health officials hoping to curb the transmission of HIV and Hepatitis B, such programs had been prohibited for more than a decade due to Republican-imposed budget riders. When the Democratic House moved to remove needle-exchange restrictions in 2007, Souder offered a floor amendment to reverse the move, arguing, according to a Post story, that such programs "merely subsidize heroin use."
"When we take large sums of money from our districts that then gets used in policies in our national capital...then we do have some obligation to the taxpayers in our district and to our nation" to oversee that spending, Souder said at the time. His amendment narrowly failed, and the needle-exchange ban came off.
Catania says Souder's fate -- along with those of Craig and Ensign -- should stand as a warning: "The people who have focused on the social agenda, who have these outlandish lunatic-bent obsessions with the District, they all fall into the meat grinder....When your legislative agenda involves the inner workings of the District of Columbia, it's your jump-the-shark moment."
Says Smith, more delicately: "I hope that he is representative of a view that is passing from the scene."