Thursday, April 19, 2007

"I Yield You No Ground"

Dreier: Will the gentlewoman yield?

Holmes Norton: I will not yield, sir. The District of Columbia has spent 206 years yielding to people who would deny them the vote. I yield you no ground. Not during my time. You have had your say, and your say has been that you think the people who live in your capital are not entitled to a vote in their House. Shame on you.

The Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton was the commencement speaker at my law school graduation. Her thesis was: "The law can be noble, and the law can be base." I thought she was wonderful then. I think she's wonderful now. She has ably served the citizens of the District of Columbia as their non-voting Delegate in the House of Representatives since 1991.

It appears that the District of Columbia may finally get a full congressional seat as the House has passed legislation to add one seat for D.C. and another seat for Utah. Of course, it's still an uphill battle because there aren't enough votes in the Senate to avoid a filibuster by republicans, and if it makes it out of the Senate, Bush has threatened to veto it. Republicans don't want the residents of the District of Columbia to have representation. Per the Washington Post:

The House Republican leadership strongly opposed the bill, saying it violates the constitutional requirement that representatives come from states. "This legislation was constitutionally suspect last month, and it is constitutionally suspect today," said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas).

Please. Republicans couldn't care less about the Constitution. Elections have shown us time and time again that the republican party will do whatever it can to prevent as many black people as possible from having a voice in government. It's just that simple. Except for the few like Rep. Thomas Davis:

The House legislation is sponsored by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) and the city's non-voting congressional delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D). Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) has also championed the measure, leading thousands of demonstrators to Congress this week to demand representation for the city.

"This is a great and historic day for the residents of the District of Columbia," Fenty said in a statement after the vote. "I look forward to the continued success of the D.C. Voting Rights Act and urge the Senate to take up this important legislation immediately."

Kudos to the Democratic leadership and staffers who made this legislative victory possible:

Democrats had expected to use their majority in the House to pass the legislation last month. But Republicans introduced a motion to send the bill back to committee with added language stripping the District of its tough anti-gun laws.

That put the Democratic leaders in a box. They knew that some Democratic members from pro-gun areas would feel obliged to back the motion. If it passed, however, it would have subjected the legislation to potentially lengthy delays in committee, and possibly even killed it, the leaders said.

Democrats realized they had inadvertently turned the D.C. voting-rights bill into a target for all sorts of motions. The source of their trouble: they had added a provision at the last minute to pay for the new House seats. That provision widened the range of permissible attachments to the bill.

In recent weeks, Democratic staffers successfully crafted legislation that would be shielded from such parliamentary maneuvers. They put forward two bills: one adding the House seats, and another that would pay for them, by tweaking a tax provision.

As mentioned above, this is but one skirmish in the long battle against taxation without representation. But as long as D.C. residents, and those who support them, remain steadfast and yield no ground, they will be victorious.

Cross-posted at make it plain

1 comment:

Brian said...

Great post.

Eleanor Holmes Norton has always been one of my favorite members of the CBC....although i'm not too crazy about the CBC as an organization.

Hopefully DC will finally get a voting Representative.

Republicans stalled on this (when they were in charge) because they knew it would be another Democratic vote in the House of Representatives.