Today, the country that was founded on "no taxation without representation" contains a capital whose residents have no representation, but plenty of taxes. The people of Washington, D.C., have no legislator to represent them in the U.S. Congress. Back in April, the House passed the D.C. Voting Rights Act (H.R. 1905) to change this, but when the bill's clone (S. 1257) went to the Senate, a minority of largely Republican senators blocked it with yet another filibuster.
D.C. Vote's Eugene Dewitt Kinlow and Ilir Zherka traveled to Jackson June 2, to talk with Mississippi voters about the issue. Zherka spoke with the Jackson Free Press last week about the District's fight for representation.
So, what do you hope to accomplish in Mississippi?
We're coming to Mississippi because the two senators that represent the state of Mississippi have opposed the D.C. voting rights bill. (U.S. Sens.) Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran have joined in a filibuster of the bill. We understand that Sen. Cochran is a very sympathetic supporter of home rule. The District, until the early '70s, did not have home rule. They did not have locally elected mayors or city council, but that changed.
You mean, after all this time, you are still a colony?
That's right, that's right. Sen. Cochran was in Congress when those changes occurred and was supportive of them, and I know that a lot of people talked to Sen. Cochran prior to the vote last September, and he expressed some sympathy for our bill and for what we were trying to achieve. But, basically, what happened was that the Senate leaders, led by Sen. Mitch McConnell, asked other Republican members of the Senate to support a filibuster of our bill, and unfortunately Sen. Cochran went along with that.
We don't have a statement from the senators on this, but what do you think is the Republicans' underlying motivation?
[T]he concern is really political rather than constitutional. There are some people who believe that if we were to win and get a voting member in the House of Representatives that this would be the first step toward full voting representation. In other words: full representation in the Senate.
And what's wrong with full representation for Washington? Do I have to go to a local Washington preacher to tell me that it may have something to do with the political mind of the residents of Washington?
There you go. I think you got it right there. You hit on it.
Spit it out for me, then.
Some peopleor many peopleoppose this bill because it would provide representation for a city where a lot of Democrats live, so there's a lot of politics behind it. Of course, no one will say that. At least not publicly.
I don't know about that. What about the Democrats up there? Nobody's come out to throw their fist in the air on this one?
They have, and basically where we are right now is that in some target states, the residents understand the role their senators are playing. Here's the irony: People who live outside of Washington, D.C., have more power on the issues than the people who actually live inside the nation's capitol. Mississippians have the power to change the minds of Sens. Cochran and Wicker. Washingtonians really don't have power as Mississippians have. That's why we're going out to the states where the power lies.
What's the situation in D.C. right now with your lack of congressional representation? Aren't you happy with the government you've got?
Congress votes on and considers federal laws and legislative actions, and that's where the Washingtonians don't have powerwhether it's on educational issues, taxes, how taxes (are) distributed, declarations of war or lack thereof, budgets for the Defense Department and environmental issues. Those are all issues where other Americans have a vote and a say through their member of Congress.
If there were a draft for a war that you had no voice on, would Washington, D.C., residents still be eligible?
Absolutely. Washingtonians pay the second highest per capita taxes than any other jurisdiction. We serve on juries and fight in the armed forces to defend this country and have died in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing democracy to those countries while not enjoying full democracy here. The real question here is: Can we get this up before the Senate? If Sens. Wicker and Cochran can vote to get this up before the Senate, their support on the bill after that would be secondary, because we already have the support to pass the bill. The question is: Will they allow the rest of the Senate to consider this bill?
I'm not sure it's about denying more Democrats in office, but rather it's long history of mismanaging Federal Funds and historic insolvency as a City. Otherwise, don't you need to prove there's a fire first?
In re a "long history of mismanaging Federal Funds and historic insolvency...and...a need to prove there's a fire first?"...What does any of that have to do with "No taxation without representation" that was the founding cry of this nation (unless you were black or a woman)? Should we revoke the Senate priviliges of all the states that are currently running a budget deficit, that are insolvent? What is the fire reference about? There are states that have fewer residents than DC. Why should they have representation, but not DC?