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Carter Backs D.C. Congressional Vote

By Jack Eisen
The Washington Post
Thursday, February 17, 1977

From The Washington Post archives, Feb. 17, 1977.

President Jimmy Carter, in his first statement on District of Columbia governmental matters since entering the White House, said yesterday that the nation's capital should be granted voting rights in Congress.

While declaring that "the President's interference in the internal affairs of the District . . . should be minimal," Carter said he had not reached a position on a form of expanded home rule that would further detach the city from U.S. control.

"Whether to go to statehood, I doubt the advisability of that," Carter said.

On congressional representation, the President did not say whether the city from U.S. control.

"Whether to go to statehood, I doubt the advisability of that," Carter said.

On congressional representation, the President did not say whether the city should be limited to a vote in the House of Representatives or should be granted the privilege in both the House and Senate.

White House staff members familiar with the issue failed to return several telephone calls placed by a reporter seeking clarification yesterday.

The President voiced his comments yesterday during a visit to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare headquarters in Southwest Washington. He accepted questions from assembled employees, as he has done on similar visits to other major agencies.

Carter was asked his views on expanded home rule for the District and on the decision by former President Ford to cut $10 million from the city's requested $300 million federal payment in lieu of taxes in the next fiscal year.

Although city officials have appealed the reduction to the White House's Office of Management and Budget, which is expected to send its budget amendments to Congress on Feb. 22, the President said he was not familiar with the issue. He voiced no opinion on it.

On the matter of a congressional vote for the city. Carter's comment was an almost verbatim repetition of a vaguely worded plank touching upon the subject in last year's Democratic Party platform.

That plank called for "full home rule for the District of Columbia, including authority over its budget and local revenues, elimination of federal restrictions in matters which are purely local and voting representation in the Congress."

The District has had limited home rule since 1973 and has been represented in the House by a nonvoting delegate since 1971.

Neither the platform nor the President said what form the city's voting representation should take.

At the minimum, it could be a vote in the House for the delegate, currently Walter E. Fauntroy (D), or at the apparent maximum, it would be the same number of senators and representatives a state would have.

The latter course would entitle the District to two senators, the same as all states, and to two representatives, based upon a population formula.

Legislation introduced by Fauntroy seeking full representation, equal to a state, failed in the House of Representatives last year. It would require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Fauntroy has reintroduced his measure this year. Identical legislation has been introduced by Reps. Stewart B. McKinney (R-Conn.) and Newton I. Steers Jr. (R-Md.). No hearings have been scheduled.

Carter's chilly view toward statehood represents a slight retreat from a statement he made on Jan. 23, 1976, when he announced his candidacy in the District's Democratic presidential primary.

At that time, he said he had no position on statehood, adding: "I'm sure most of my aides in D.C. would want me to say I favor D.C. statehood . . . I'll keep an open mind . . . I don't know if it's wise or not."

Carter's statement yesterday brought an angry reaction from D.C. City Council member Julius Hobson Sr., the lone officeholder of the local Statehood Party who is regarded as its principal founder.

"Giving Fauntroy the vote isn't going to make people freer; it isn't going to get them out of the presidential and congressional veto power," Hobson told a reporter. "I think the President just got here and doesn't know what is going on in the District of Columbia."

D.C. Mayor Walter E. Washington praised the President's support for congressional representation, a spokesman said, noting that the mayor testified before a congressional committee in support of such a move as long ago as 1968 - the year he took office.

Carter's comment about not wanting to interfere in internal District affairs apparently was motivated by an editorial published yesterday in The Washington Post.

The editorial urged Carter not to interfere with the City Council's over-riding of the mayor's veto of Council-passed legislation removing D.C. General Hospital from the jurisdiction of the city's troubled, complex Department of Human Resources. The President has such power under the 1973 Home Rule Act.

"I have no inclinaton as President to be burdened by such things as hospital issues in the District of Columbia," he told his questioner, who had not raised the hospital issue.

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