Lights illuminate the the U.S. Capitol earlier this year. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

LIMITED FEDERAL government is an article of faith for the Republican Party — except when the District of Columbia is in play. Then what tends to matter is not principle but politics.

Last week, two Republican senators, Ted Cruz of Texas and James Lankford of Oklahoma, introduced resolutions to strike down two District bills passed by the D.C. Council last year. The House may soon follow. “We want to take some action in the House too,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the committee with oversight over the District, told Roll Call of the two bills undergoing the 30-day review period required of all D.C. legislation.

At issue are the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act, which would prohibit employer discrimination based on reproductive health decisions, and the Human Rights Amendment Act, which would require religiously affiliated universities to comply with the city’s law banning discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Disapproval resolutions require the backing of a majority of both chambers and the president to take effect. They are rarely successful. But they allow members of Congress to clamber aboard their soapboxes on issues that play to their base. Mr. Cruz introduced the resolutions just before he announced a bid for president that is expected to be built on appeals to conservatives and the religious right .

What’s most striking about the effort to upend the actions of locally elected officials is how at odds it is with Republican stances on federalism. The House Republican budget released a day before the resolutions were filed has this passage: “America is a diverse nation. Our cities, states and local communities are best equipped and naturally inclined to develop solutions that will serve their populations.”

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District’s non-voting representative in the House, rightly argued that people who live in the nation’s capital are American citizens who should have “the same respect that is given to citizens in other jurisdictions whose local governments pass similar legislation.” If these measures violate religious freedom, the forum to determine their legality is the courts, not Congress.