There are more than 600,000 taxpaying Americans living in the District of Columbia, but they have no voice in Congress – the people of the nation’s capital city have a non-voting member and a congressional committee that sets limits and restrictions on the decisions of locally elected officials.
The arrangement is sometime awkward. For example, Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican, rejected the city’s push for expanded authority over its own budget in a rather offensive way: “When my kids were young – teenagers – they wanted budget autonomy, too. You allow them to go their own way. When they get out of line, according to the Constitution, the Congress has the right to step in.”
For one thing, it’s not okay to compare hundreds of thousands of D.C. residents – most of whom are African American – to children. For another, the “parental” relationship between the city and Congress is ridiculous – there’s no other city in the United States in which Congress can “step in” and override the budget decisions of local officials elected by voters.
Making matters, it’s not just the budget that’s at issue.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) is bringing back a bill to ban most abortions in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks of pregnancy. […]
It will be opposed by supporters of abortion rights and the D.C. “home rule” movement, which believes Congress should not set policy in the District.
In a statement last week, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) vowed to defeat the Franks bill on behalf of District women. “We will combat the insatiable Republican obsession with interfering with the rights of women in our city, as we have successfully done before,” she said.
Does the Franks bill have a chance of becoming law? Almost certainly not. But that’s not really the point.
Rather, there are a couple of angles to keep in mind. First, for all the talk about the Republican Party and “rebranding,” the culture war remains a front-burner issue for much of the party. We generally see the more aggressive campaigns to limit women’s reproductive rights at the state level, but as Franks helps demonstrate, the agenda remains a congressional priority, too.
Second, let’s call this what it is: a big government proposal in which federal lawmakers want to overrule the judgment of local officials, overriding the wishes of a city because some in Congress feel like it.
Republicans have embraced fairly specific principles related to limited government and federalism, which makes it all the more interesting to see Republican lawmakers ignore and reject those principles whenever it suits their other, more pressing priorities.