Michael Bindner's DC Blog

In this blog, I discuss DC politics and other issues of import to local government. I have posted several essays from my book, Musings from the Christian Left, on blog entreies dated June 2004.

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Location: Alexandria, Virginia, United States

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Expel Congress

About a year and a half ago, Faith came to StandUp! seeking support for a July 4th event hwere District residents declare their independence from the United States. She has been making this argument for years and I had always dismissed it as a bit nuts, but then it occurred to me that the equivalent of this is to do a citizen initiative to expel the Congress from the District of Columbia. For the first two decades in the life of the District, Congress held the possibility of removing the Capitol to another place as a sword of Damoclese to force compliance on all issues, especially financial. Now that all the original land speculators are dead, I say we return the favor.

The importance of such an effort is that the United States must oppose it, denying the right of the District's residents to expel Congress and thus confirming that the District has no right to self-determination. This argument will be explosive, even more so if accepted by the Courts and affirmed by the Supreme Court.

A serious referendum to throw out Congress is about the only thing the District of Columbia can force the United States to admit that the District is a colony. The 20 Citizens lawsuit tried to force these admissions and the United States merely demured on the factual statements and ignored the actual arguments which were never addressed in any finding or opinion. While we cannot prove ex parte communication occurred to ignore the major issues, the proof is in the pudding. The great thing about a citizen initiative is that it cannot be stopped unless they admit what we want them to admit. Again, it is not about the actual issue, but getting the Solicitor General to say that the District does not have the right to self-determination in his legal brief.

If the initiative sponsors, the United States is effectively smacked down. If the initiative sponsors lose, then the Court is on record in saying the the District is a colony and its residents have no right to self-determination - which is the declaration that the 20 Citizens were fishing for but could not get.

The lawsuit will be filed when the DC Board of Elections and Ethics denies ballot access. The United States will undoubtedly intervene and what was implicit will be made explicit. If the initiative sponsors win, then the government will likely want to make a deal because they have too much to lose to allow the District residents a vote on this issue.

If they want to deal, aside from a star in the flag and voting rights in both Houses, we must demand that Congress cease and dissist from unilaterally amending the District Charter without the consent of D.C. voters. This can be done by inserting language in Section 303 of the Home Rule Act. The other method is to challenge the next attempt to amend it unilaterally. This is further discussed on my web page. The important thing about this effort is that it takes the fun away from Congress. In theory, it acts as the state legislature. However, no state legislature that I know of can unilaterally amend the state constitution without some form of popular check, either a ratification vote, an intervening election, or both. By taking their fun away, we take away the main obstacle to statehood.

What is required to get this effort off the ground. First, we need initiative sponsors and a committed group of petition circulators. Second, and as important, we need legal representation, most likely the ACLU. Doing this will surely attract attention, since this issue will be explosive. If the Free DC movement wants its arguments out there, this one of the most effective ways to do it. It would certainly put pressure on Congress and take some of the attention off of voting rights.


Blogger Michael Bindner said...

Note that there are four alternatives if the Courts let the measure to expel Congress onto the ballot. The first is a no vote and the status quo remains, although a closer vote would send a message. The next three involve Congress making a choice. 1. It could leave. Good luck to whomever gets it next. 2. Statehood or at least territorial status. 3. Retrocession (until Maryland throws DC out, which they would do). All four options are a political question. Not giving DC residents a vote on the question is simply tyranny.

August 05, 2017 1:20 AM  

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