President Obama announced Tuesday that the District’s politically charged “taxation without representation” license plates will be placed on all presidential limousines this weekend, a move city leaders have been waiting on for four years.
In a statement, White House officials said Obama will use the protest license plate because after living in the city for four years, he has seen “first-hand how patently unfair it is for working families in D.C. to work hard, raise children and pay taxes, without having a vote in Congress.”
“Attaching these plates to the presidential vehicles demonstrates the President’s commitment to the principle of full representation for the people of the District of Columbia and his willingness to fight for voting rights, Home Rule and budget autonomy for the District,” the statement said.
White House and Secret Service officials will place the plates on presidential vehicles before Monday’s inaugural parade, which is expected to draw tens of millions of viewers around the world. White House officials stressed that the new plates will remain on presidential vehicles for all of Obama’s second term.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), D.C. Council members and voting rights activists were thrilled by the news, hailing it as a small but important step in the decades-long fight for voting rights or statehood.
“It’s very exciting, and I see this as a step toward a lot of things down the road,” Gray said.
Since the plates were authorized by city leaders in 2000, they have become standard issue for District residents. The U.S. Constitution limits voting membership in the House of Representatives to residents of states. The license-plate slogan is a twist on the “No taxation without representation’’ rallying cry of British colonists before the American Revolution.
During President Bill Clinton's final weeks in office, he had the plates placed on his presidential vehicles. But President George W. Bush subsequently removed the plates when he was sworn in. And to the dismay of city leaders, Obama rebuffed requests to use them during his first four years in office.
Last month, after Obama won reelection and carried the District with 91 percent of the vote, DC Vote posted a petition on the White House Web site demanding that the president use the plates.
Last week, the D.C. Council unanimously passed a resolution calling on Obama to use the plates. The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles even printed a new license plate with the same number — 800-002 — that they say is used on at least one of the presidential limousines.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), the sponsor of the resolution, hand-delivered the new plate and council resolution to David Agnew, deputy assistant to the president and director of intergovernmental affairs, during a White House meeting Friday.
Mendelson said Tuesday that the “symbolic value” of the plates cannot be understated.
“It’s about getting the message out,” Mendelson said.
Mike Debonis contributed to this report.