Taxation Without Representation Alive and Well in D.C.

by Adam Fogel // Published March 6, 2009
Last week, we could nearly see the finish line--the U.S. Senate invoked cloture and passed the D.C. House Voting Rights Act (S. 160) by a vote of 61 to 37, leaving the reliably supportive House of Representatives to move the bill forward to the president's desk. However, Republican Senator John Ensign (R-NV) threw a wrench in the process when he introduced an amendment that would invalidate most of the District's gun control laws. Sen. Ensign has recently been quoted as saying, "D.C. Vote has nothing to do...with Civil Rights." Bill sponsor Joe Lieberman (I/D-CT) called the amendment an "unnatural appendage"--but as "unnatural" as it is, the gun issue is responsible for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) putting the bill on "indefinite hold."

For over 200 years, the citizens of the District of Columbia have been without a voting member in the federal legislature. The U.S. is the only nation on earth where the people living in the capital city are without representation. Only since 1971 has D.C. had the right to elect a nonvoting member to the House. In 1978, Congress passed a constitutional amendment that would have given the District a voting House member and two senators had the necessary two-thirds of states approved it by 1985 (only 16 states ratified the amendment).

During the Clinton Administration, the president changed the license plates on the presidential limo to the iconic "Taxation without Representation" plates seen throughout the city. President Bush removed the plates (he was a vocal critic of D.C. voting rights), but many expected President Obama to put the "Taxation" plates back on before his January 20th inauguration (he did not).

Mark Plotkin tries to get White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to explain why not at the end of yesterday's press briefing:

White House Transcript