Call it what it is: This week’s 20-to-16 party-line vote in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to disapprove the District’s Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act is an outright abuse of power. True, Congress, by virtue of Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, has jurisdiction “in all cases whatsoever” over the District. But the committee’s action, prompted by Republican chairman Jason Chaffetz, was an improper use of that authority.
Nothing in the reproductive discrimination law adversely affects the federal interest. This D.C. law does not impinge upon citizens in Chaffetz’s Utah congressional district or in any other congressional district in the United States.
Chaffetz and his Republican House colleagues are misapplying their powers, and for the worst of reasons — to demonstrate that Americans who live in our nation’s capital have no right to govern themselves. The committee, which is dead-set on letting D.C. residents know they mean less than nothing on Capitol Hill, usurped the self-governing power delegated to the District by Congress in the 1973 Home Rule Act.
Republican members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are not alone in their disregard for D.C. residents.
Presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have joined forces to put down the city by introducing legislation to weaken its gun laws. Rubio and Jordan would go so far as to allow gun owners to carry their weapons into D.C. buildings — except not, perish the thought, into federal buildings and the U.S. Capitol.
Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District’s delegate to the House of Representatives, is pretty much limited to opposing congressional incursions with her voice, since she doesn’t have a vote. She vocalizes well, but it’s not enough to dissuade Republicans from indulging their predilection to treat the city with disrespect.
Congressional Republicans will tell you that they step on the District out of respect for the Constitution. They claim that the city’s reproductive discrimination law infringes on constitutional protections for District-based employers and institutions. And they maintain that city gun laws infringe on Second Amendment rights. Those same critics, by the way, would not stand for Washington treating their own constituents the way they treat D.C. residents.
The motive underlying the mistreatment? Federal lawmakers such as Chaffetz clearly consider themselves straw bosses and chieftains — masters of all they survey from their vantage point on Capitol Hill. Thus they slap down the District with little discomfort.
Listen to Chaffetz as he voted to turn back the city’s reproductive law: “When they tend to step over the line, we’re going to do what we need to do,” he said. “We have other tools at our disposal. That’s what the mayor and others need to remember. We’re not bashful about using those tools, either.” Spoken like a true overseer.
It doesn’t follow, however, that Americans residing in the nation’s capital must accept the inferior status assigned by Chaffetz and his Republican cohorts.
Make the masters work at it.
Where does Chaffetz get off threatening city officials to not “step over the line”? Whose line? His?
To recall, in February, Chaffetz also threatened Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and other city officials with jail time if the city implemented the voter-approved Initiative 71, legalizing small amounts of marijuana. Line crossed.
City leaders should push their home-rule powers to the limit. Legislate as if there is no Jason Chaffetz, Marco Rubio or any other two-bit politician out to make reputations for themselves at the District’s expense.
The city should elect only mayors and council members who have the guts to stand up to the overseers and tell them off if they have it coming. The days of obsequiousness, fawning and groveling are over. Should never have occurred in the first place.
It’s quite simple: A member of Congress who fails to accord D.C. residents the same respect shown to his or her own constituents is in contempt of the District and should be treated as such.
Such overseers aim to bring us to heel, to obey their whims. We aren’t bird dogs.
Voters in Wards 4 and 8 can start by voting in Tuesday’s special election for the candidates most capable of seeing that taxpaying D.C. residents, who fight for their country and fulfill all civic duties expected of Americans, enjoy the rights afforded residents in the 50 states. And take it from there.
Don’t back up or back down.
Make the wannabe masters work for it.
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