In yesterday’s Loose Lips Daily, LL referred icily to the anti-District voting rights stance of Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who holds firmly that the D.C. House Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. LL said the new, famously office-dwelling congressman is “playing armchair constitutional expert,” seeing as the man holds no law degree and spent his professional career as a political aide and public-relations man.
LL’s comment earned him this comment from “Trenton,” who seems to run a conservative blog in Utah: “While your cheap shot at Rep. Jason Chaffetz might make you feel better, it only tells me you have no serious argument to make in that debate.”
You’re right, Trenton: LL has no serious argument to make in that debate—-just like Jason Chaffetz shouldn’t. You see, LL holds no law degree and has spent his professional career as a smartass alt-weekly reporter.
LL is perfectly willing to stipulate that there are very serious constitutional questions involved with the DCHVRA. Highly respected legal scholars have taken differing, equally well-reasoned positions—-in some cases in ways that oppose their political interests—-e.g., liberal law prof Jonathan Turley says DCHVRA is unconstitutional; conservative law prof Viet Dinh says its perfectly constitutional.
Here’s the beautiful thing about the United States of America: We have an entire branch of government devoted to sorting out these questions. And it’s not Congress.
Nope—-Congress’ job isn’t to sort out matters of constitutionality. That’s for the federal judiciary to decide (thank you, John Marshall). Congress’ job is to conduct oversight of the federal government and to pass legislation in keeping with its principles and policy objectives. That’s not to say Congress should go legislating willy-nilly where there’s already well-settled law—-say, by passing a flag-burning ban—-but a D.C. House vote is not a well-settled situation.
If Congress believes as a matter of principle and policy that the nearly 600,000 residents of the District of Columbia should have a vote in Congress, it should legislate thusly. If it doesn’t, that’s fine—-but members like Chaffetz (and there’s plenty of them on both sides of the aisle) shouldn’t hide behind the trope that such a move wouldn’t be constitutional.
That’s not what you’re here to decide, congressman—-you need to decide whether D.C. deserves to be afforded a vote, with Utah gaining one in the process. If you think that leaving the federal district disenfranchised is a worthy policy goal, say so. But leave the questions of constitutionality to the courts.