Perhaps not everyone knows that our nation’s capital, Washington D.C., lacks representation in Congress. But it’s true: in the grand scheme of the American representative form of democracy, D.C. gets taxed without representation – and the city’s residents have been fighting for full and equal rights for over two hundred years.
As advocacy group DC Vote relates the facts:
Nearly 600,000 DC residents pay federal income taxes, serve on juries, and die in wars to defend American democracy, but do not have voting representation in the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate.
It’s a raw deal and it’s rightly resented by D.C. residents. It’s almost as if the American Revolution passed D.C. by, even though it was the Revolution’s success, leading to the need for a neutral site for the nation’s capital that brought the District of Columbia into existence.
It’s a sad and inexcusable state of affairs. And as if “inexcusable” is our cue: enter one of the Republican Party’s most despicable members, Darrel Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Issa, who has already proven that there is no depth to which he is not willing to sink, and well aware that D.C. would like to have at least the autonomy of a city budget, has decided to blackmail the city without a state by offering it budget independence. All they had to do was agree to ban abortion.
According to the Washington Post:
[Issa] has drafted a bill that would give the District more freedom to spend its own money — with a catch…a provision that would prohibit the District from spending its own taxpayer funds to pay for abortions for low-income women except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
Republicans have made Women’s Reproductive Rights their cause célèbre during the 2012 election cycle – not jobs, not the economy, not housing, not infrastructure – certainly not safe air or drinking water. Extending federal regulations to control of women’s reproductive organs won’t create any jobs and it will adversely affect the health of America’s women. But the ideological need for the Republican War on Women overrides all other considerations, leading to tawdry backroom deals like this. Reports the Post:
Although city leaders expressed caution in their initial reactions Monday, the inclusion of the abortion language could doom the bill from the start. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and other officials were furious when President Obama and congressional Republicans cut a deal on a spending bill in April that included a similar temporary prohibition.
According to the Post, “Obama had said to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio): ‘John, I will give you D.C. abortion.’” The only problem is that the President did not ask D.C. first.
Far from being a city with even a hint of local autonomy, the nation’s capital has become a bargaining chip.
Issa won’t do the deal without the abortion ban, making his goals clear: the Post reports Issa spokesman Frederick Hill as saying “the bill is a ‘good-faith effort’ to address the city’s desire for more autonomy” but if this were true there would be no price tag attached. Issa’s allegedly “good faith effort” is nothing more than a naked and obvious attempt to strong-arm a desperate city to do what the GOP wants and it is a despicable as every other attempt by Republicans to attack Women’s Reproductive Rights.
Certainly D.C. wants budget autonomy but at what cost? As Ilir Zherka, head of DC Vote, said, “I don’t think you can begin this conversation with a bill that permanently restricts how the District can spend its own money.”
DC Vote asserts that “Republicans have a proud history of working to bring American democracy to America’s capital” but even if this is true, Issa’s blackmail attempt taints that record.
After better than two hundred years control of the purse strings ought to be handed over gratis, and the only thing that should go along with it is a profound apology for how long it’s taken to extend the fruits of the revolution to this last little corner of America.