Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Taxation Without Representation (a solution?)

Just caught this on WSJ's law blog.

Apparently the Senate has been supportive of the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act, which gives Washington D.C. Representation in the House of Representatives. The Wall Street Journal is quite obviously against the act claiming that this will be a permanent seat and will most definitely be a solid seat for the democrats. They also mention that it may be unconstitutional.

According to the plain language of the Constitution, "The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature." The Constitution further dictates that the Person must be an inhabitant of the State in which he shall be chosen.

For those of you who aren't aware, Washington D.C. is federal jurisdiction. It is not our 51st state. This act ignores the plain language of the Constitution and would provide representation to individuals living in a federal jurisdiction.

However, an argument may be made that refusing to provide citizens a voice through representation in the House of Representatives is against the purpose of the Constitutional provision of a House of Representatives. No one likes the idea of taxation without representation, and an argument can be made that the resident's of Washington D.C. are struggling with this very notion. The House is supposed to be the representation of individual rights, while the Senate is supposed to be the representation of state rights. Why then can't Washington D.C. residents have representation?

I dare say that an argument that this seat is simply a give away to the democrat party is not a reasonable argument and should be disqualified immediately. The question is whether the letter of the law rules or the intention of the law.

I tend to fall on the side of "letter of the law". I tend to view the Constitution as a purposefully simple document that has been distorted and compromised by the actions of the Supreme Court (and FDR). Though I see the importance of the argument made for the "intention of the law", there is no good test for true intentions. It is the belief in intentions that has created the mass of gibberish we call Constitutional Law, full of doctrines, bright line tests, and contradictions. If we want to change the Constitution, the founders provided both the opportunity to rewrite our Constitution and to amend our Constitution.

Only then can we provide representation to the citizens residing in Washington D.C.

*UPDATE* I just thought I might clarify that there may be times when arguments as to intention are necessary due to ambiguous language. Determining the ambiguity of language creates a new problem that is not established in this matter.*UPDATE*


Anonymous said...

I really must say, I like this post.

It almost makes a good case against taxing those in DC altogether.

I'm not sure that I entirely agree with your "Letter of the Law" interpretation... actually, I definitely don't agree, but you do make a good point. DC is not a state and therefore should not get representation. They also should not be taxed though on a federal level, but because DC is still a property of the US, I know that will never change.

On a side note. Anyone who has ever been to DC and been courageous enough to venture outside of the main strip, knows that DC is a shit hole. If they are going to continue to tax the people of DC, then they should probably put some money into the city other than in the tourist areas.

CBI said...

There is a very easy and Constitutional solution. The Congress can define the District of Columbia to include things like the Mall, the Capitol, the various monuments and museums---and only a single residence, at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The remainder of the city of Washington would revert to Maryland. That would mean MD would gain a congressional district an an electoral vote, but it would make sense.

I've been told that the city of Arlington, VA, used to be part of the District of Columbia, but reverted in the 1860s.

Legal-Right said...

CBI: I like that option. it pure and simply makes sense. I wonder how Maryland feels about increasing their crime rate.

Doesn't the resident there at 1600 make more than a quarter million a year? I wonder how taxes work when you are President.