Washington DC--Taxation w/o Representation?

I suppse I should have wondered this before now but…Is that the case with Washington DC? They ain’t got no senators or Representatives, and I’m assuming just because you live in DC you’re not exempt from federal income tax and the draft. So…is there a bunch of irony going on there or do the voices of the 15 or 20 people who live in DC get their voices heard via one of the neighboring states?

It’s on their license plates. I think they’re quite aware of the issue.

Not a whole lot of people live in DC, but it’s more than you might think. About 580,000 people live in DC, which is more than the whole state of Wyoming.

We have an elected delegate who can vote in House committees, but not on bills or amendments debated on the floor of the House. Whether that fulfills what people consider “representation” is something people would have to decide for themselves, but DC residents generally consider the lack of voting representation in Congress a major issue. And yes, we pay the same Federal taxes anyone else in the US pays, and compared to states, we pay one of the higher rates of local income taxes.

There are a small number of members of the House and the Senate who take active interest in DC affairs, but none of them really represent the people of DC. In fact, some of them take an interest in DC affairs that is outright hostile to the views of DC residents.

For example, Senator Brownback has been chairman of the DC Appropriations Committee and has pushed through a school voucher proposal over the opposition of DC residents. (Though, in fairness, the unpopular proposal was supported by the elected mayor of DC.)

And because the federal government owns so much property in D.C., its residents get absolutely screwed when it comes to property tax revenue. It’s a bad situation all around.

Believe it or not, taxation without representation is not unconstitutional.

In Canada, the federal government is constitutionally exempt from provincial and municipal taxes (which I assume is the same in the US), but recognizes the problems this causes for the municipal property tax base and voluntarily pays “grants in lieu of taxes” which generate the same amount of revenue for the municipality as the property taxes would. (Although the municipalities frequently claim they’re being shortchanged.)

I will refer you to my thread in GD.

There was a bill this year to give D.C. a full voting Representative, balancing the almost-certain addition of a Democrat to the House by giving Utah another Representative. In the last census, Utah was just barely short of getting another one, so this is a sensible exchange. This bill will not be voted on this year, but since Pelosi likes it, will be reintroduced next year and with any luck, passed.

And then it will be immediately overturned by the courts. A rather useless measure, IMHO.

True enough, but if I remember my Schoolhouse Rock correctly, it really pissed of the North American British colonists and was one of the many arguments which supported a brief local policy of killing redcoats and stitching new flags. Ironic that the capitol of the resulting country should be taxed & unrepresented. Maybe the DC peeps could dump a bunch of Pepsi into the Potomac River in protest.

The Founding Fathers never anticipated that the District of Columbia would become a large city with year-round population, and it didn’t become such until around the time of the New

Deal, I believe, when the combination of a Congress staying in session all the time, a growing federal bureaucracy and blacks moving north for jobs created, basically, the situation we have today.

I think the bill Captain Carrot referred to will in fact pass in the 110th Congress. This time around, it was more a victim of time contraints than lack of support. Utah’s even passed a map that would create its new district without threatening the one Democrat in its delegation (a rare example of putting state interests over partisan ones).

But, and as a District resident, I hate to admit this, friedo is probably right in saying it’s unconstitutional, perhaps blatantly so. To wit (emphasis added):

Article 1, Section 1, Clause 1: 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.

Amendment XIV, Section 2: Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17: To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States…

These three snippets establish that House members may only come from states and that the District of Columbia is clearly not a state. Now, the Constitution also says that the House “may determine the Rules of its Proceedings” so it may not explicitly forbid the House from saying that the Delegate from the District of Columbia should be treated like a full-fledged Member. But to say that the D.C. representative is, legally, a full-fledged member seems to violate the Constitution. D.C. isn’t a state and, therefore, can’t have a representative in Congress.

Even if House rules said the D.C. delegate was treated like a member, I bet you’d get a lawsuit or something if a bill passed by one vote and the D.C. delegate voted for it, since, technically, the D.C. delegate is not a member of the House.

But, then again, (wow, this is complicated), the constitution never says what constitutes “passage” in the House, which suggests the House can define it as it pleases. However, the constitution does stipulate two-thirds majorities in some cases, and I think you could reasonably argue that the D.C. delegate, no matter what House rules say, cannot be included among those two-thirds.

Then again, I am not a lawyer. :smiley:

Yeah, the Founding Fathers[sup]TM[/sup] didn’t intend for D.C. to have representation in Congress, but they had no idea that eventually only about a quarter of people living in D.C. would work for the government. Their rules based on a situation that no longer exists should be looked at carefully and in context, not just literally. I agree that there may be some problems if the D.C. representative is the deciding 2/3 vote, and also if D.C.'s population increases enough to warrant multiple representatives.

Well of course. I definitely come down on the side of the Constitution being a “living document” and all that. The problem is that, unlike, say, the Commerce Clause or the “necessary and proper” clause, the wording here, IMHO, isn’t vague enough to allow for an interpretation that allows D.C. to have a voting member, barring statehood or constitutional amendment.

Fortunately, the Founding Fathers[sup]TM[/sup] foresaw that they wouldn’t foresee everything, and provided a process by which to amend their handiwork. I’m definitely in favor of an amendment giving DC a real Representative – it’s the only way it’s going to happen for real.

You really think that 38 state legislatures are going to vote to allow D.C. representation in Congress? Last time it was tried only 16 states did it, and it’s relatively easy for unscrupulous politicians to spin this as “The people in Washington D.C. want more representation in Congress. They already have the whole House and Senate there – what more do they want?” Granted it’s a stupid argument, but that’s what spin is, and it’s fairly persuasive if you don’t think about what it actually means.

I didn’t say it would be easy – just that I’m in favor of it.

FWIW, the 23rd Amendment took less than two years to ratify. I’m amazed they did it so quickly back then.

Saying that “that’s the only way it’s going to happen for real” implies that a Constitutional amendment would actually go through, though, and I don’t think it’s really possible.

I think you have a point about the speed of ratification, but consider: D.C. residents can’t vote for the President, versus D.C. residents have no voting power in the House of Representatives. There are several legitimate arguments for the latter, but few for the former. I, however, would be excited if a Constitutional amendment gained support, since I haven’t witnessed any personally.