Residents of the District of Columbia who have had taxation without representation since 1800 have noticed with interest the anguish on Capitol Hill about the lack of representation in the House of Representatives for the 8th District of Indiana.
That is the district where Republican Richard McIntyre ran against Democrat Frank McCloskey last November. First reports had it that McIntyre had won. Then it appeared that the votes in one precinct had been counted twice. After two recounts, Indiana's secretary of state certified McIntyre the winner. The U.S. House -- voting on strictly party lines -- refused to seat McIntyre. More recounts were orclared invalid; accusations were hurled in all directions; Indiana's election laws and procedures were criticized; there were calls for a special election to decide the issue; and the Democrats now say they will move to seat McCloskey this week.
In the meantime Republicans, some Democrats and The Wall Street Journal among others agreed that the real losers have been the people in the 8th District who have had no voice and no vote in the House for the last four months.
Well, how about District of Columbia residents -- who have not had a vote in Congress for the last 185 years?
We sympathize with the people of the 8th District, and nod in agreement when Rep. William V. Alexander (D- Ark.) declares on the floor of the House: "Clearly representation in the House of Representatives is one of the the most sacred rights of citizenship of our great nation."
We hear Rep. Newt Gingrich (R- Ga.) when he says that "to have gone through all of January with no representation for the 8th District; to go through all of February with no representation for the 8th District is basically, fundamentally wrong."
What about 185 years?
Certainly D.C. residents empathize with their Indiana counterparts when Hill orators point out what it means in practical terms to be without true representation. There is the matter of personal advocacy, for example. Again, Gingrich was the spokesman. Referring to the case of a Florida child needing a kidney transplant, he lamented: "The tragedy is that the kind of eloquent personal representation the gentleman from Florida just gave on a personal, compassionate issue is impossible if you are one of the 550,000 people in the 8th District of Indiana right now . . . my heart goes out to those in Indiana who do not have representation to make the kind of effective personal appeal."
Before the vote on the MX missile, Rep. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) noted, "We are expected to have votes on the MX missile issue; that is certainly an issue of national and international importance at a time when we are having the Geneva arms control talks. I think it is important that the 8th District of Indiana be represented as we discuss these important issues dealing with agriculture and defense and national security."
So do we.
House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.) had a novel idea. He introduced a bill suggesting that the people of the 8th District of Indiana not pay taxes since they have no representation in the House.
"Mr. Speaker," Michel said, "The speaker knows better than most of us the battle cry of the American Revolution: 'Taxation without representation is tyranny.' It was a cry that was heard in the streets of the speaker's hometown back in pre-revolutionary times.
"But today it is heard in the 8th District of Indiana. The people have been denied representation but are still asked to pay taxes. Today I am introducing a bill on behalf of Rick McIntyre to provide that individuals who live in the 8th District of Indiana not be required to pay federal income taxes for the period during which they are without representation in the House of Representatives."
Michel's bill was referred to the Ways and Means Committee where, not surprisingly, nothing much is happening to it.
The question of representation for the 8th District of Indiana could be resolved this week. The question of true representation for residents of the District of Columbia doesn't appear to be all that close. After Indiana is attended to, unrepresented Washingtonians hope that those members of the House who have spoken so eloquently to the plight of the hapless 550,000 people of Indiana's 8th District, will address themselves with equal zeal to the plight of more than 640,000 taxed but unrepresented citizens who live in the District of Columbia.
We have been shouting "Taxation without representation is tyranny" for years, but so far no one has introduced, as Michel has in the case of the Hoosiers, legislation calling for tax exemptions for District residents so long as they are unrepresented. Actually, District citizens aren't looking to get out of paying taxes. On April 15 we pay ours as willingly as any other taxpayer, and the amount is greater per capita than that in any state except Alaska. What we do mind is not being represented when those taxes are voted -- and when other great issues are debated and resolved in the Congress of the United States.