G.O.P. Victory Could Tighten Grip on D.C.
||The Hoya (DC)
||Tuesday, October 5, 2010
||Metro and Neighborhood
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has pledged to serve as the legislative roadblock to greater D.C. autonomy, pending a Republican takeover of the House of Representatives this November.
As a ranking member of the House’s Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia, Chaffetz has a direct role in drafting legislation affecting the District, but the Democratic congressional majority in the 111th Congress has prevented him from making any major overhauls.
If the Republicans take the majority, however, Chaffetz will become the head of the subcommittee, a title that will allot him the power to silence D.C.’s continuing quest for representation in the federal government.
Though he has only been on Capitol Hill for two years, Chaffetz has already opposed a bill that would give D.C. a congressional vote, opposed a bill that would give the city more autonomy and introduced legislation that would force city officials to put gay marriage up to a referendum vote.
For Chaffetz, the question of D.C. representation is not even a question at all.
“The Constitution explicitly says that voting rights are reserved for the several states,” he told the Washington City Paper in an interview.
Chaffetz believes that the 600,000 citizens of D.C. do deserve to have some kind of voice. However, his proposal is to make a good chunk of residential D.C. part of Maryland.
“Not only could they have two senators, but they could have a voting member and a state legislature,” Chaffetz told the City Paper in the same interview.
Whether or not D.C. residents would be interested in joining the Chesapeake Bay State, Chaffetz’s proposal is not likely to be adopted without bipartisan support. A more likely scenario is that D.C.’s hopes of a congressional vote would be buried under Chaffetz. Though the city does have a House delegate — Democrat Eleanor Norton has held the position since 1991 — the city does not have a vote in House floor votes, and it does not have representation in the Senate. Norton has tried to introduce legislation to change that fact, but each time it has fizzled out, including a bill in 2009 that was passed by the Senate, but not by the House.
When asked for their opinions on D.C.’s bizarre political situation, Georgetown students generally opposed Chaffetz’s agenda for city voting rights.
“They’re citizens of the United States,” Sooji Kim (COL ’13) said of D.C. residents. “They pay taxes and do everything that other citizens do, but they don’t get any representation,” he said.
Stephen Collier (MSB ’12) echoed Kim’s sentiments, adding that he thinks meticulous federal control over the District seems excessive.
“I feel like it’s kind of a waste of federal government attention since D.C. is such a small part of the country,” he said.
Whether or not Chaffetz will gain leadership of the House subcommittee remains to be seen. With Democrats making a charge for their continued majority, Republicans must work hard if they want to take back the House. If they do, though, D.C. residents may have to wait a while before they can claim their long coveted Congressional vote.
According to James Marshall (SFS ’13), this is not necessarily a bad thing.
“If D.C. gets real representation, they’ll have to change everyone’s license plates,” he said.