The Washington Post
D.C. decides what’s right
The March 4 editorial “It’s time for D.C. leaders to rewrite the criminal code” was nothing short of insulting. To suggest that the D.C. Council should “render the measure acceptable to moderate senators” leaves me scratching my head. And what about the moderate folks in Ottumwa, Iowa, or Rudyard Township, Mich., or Flagstaff, Ariz.?
The comment on getting “D.C.’S house in order” was equally offensive. It displays an arrogance equal to that of so many of our congressional members and their ignorance of what is really going on in D.C.
Though there is much to be done, we do not need the jabs of The Post or members of Congress who profess to know what’s best for 700,000 disenfranchised citizens. I would suggest that they worry about their own backyards and leave us to ours.
William Kurtz, Washington
As The Post’s editorial pointed out, in announcing that he would not veto action by Congress disapproving D.C.’S crime bill, “the president picked public safety over home rule for the capital city.” This should not invite or authorize efforts to overturn other laws passed by D.C.’S elected representatives.
Congress’s disapproval of a D.C. law depends on Article I, Section 8 Clause 17 of the Constitution. That provision gives Congress “exclusive” authority over D.C. But the narrow purpose of that “exclusive” authority was to avoid the humiliation suffered by the Continental Congress on June 21, 1783, when some 80 soldiers, unpaid and weary, marched on Congress, then sitting in Philadelphia, physically threatened and verbally abused the members and caused members of Congress to flee the city when neither municipal nor state authorities would act to protect them.
In reaction, the Founding Fathers wrote into the Constitution the authority of Congress to protect itself and the seat of the national government without the need to rely on help from local or state governments. As James Madison explained in Federalist No. 43, without Congress’s exclusive authority to protect itself, its “authority might be insulted and its proceedings interrupted with impunity.” But far from Congress being given general authority to second-guess legislative actions by an elected local legislature in the federal district, Madison noted in the same Federalist 43 that a “municipal legislature for local purposes, derived from their own suffrages, will of course be allowed.”
A case could be made that in overturning the crime bill, Congress would be acting pursuant to its constitutional authority to protect the safety of the Congress and the capital city. But that is a limited situation not extending to the vast majority of bills enacted by the D.C. government. Walter Smith, Washington