More On D.c. Voting Rights

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THE PLANK SEPTEMBER 19, 2007

More On D.c. Voting Rights

Ross Douthat takes a swipe at TNR's editorial stance on the constitutionality of the D.C. voting-rights bill. He quotes our position on the issue:

McConnell and Bush base their opposition on ostensibly constitutional grounds, arguing that the Constitution grants congressional representation only to states, which, of course, the District of Columbia is not. But the legislation, as it's crafted, addresses these concerns--since it provides for expedited judicial review of the bill if it's challenged after becoming law. As Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said in voting for the bill in committee last week, "I have concluded that the constitutionality of this legislation is a close call and is best resolved by the courts and not by this committee."

Says Ross: "Er, okay, I guess. So Congress has no responsibility to consider the constitutionality of the legislation it votes on, beyond ensuring that the Supreme Court rules on it ASAP? Really?"

I personally have concerns about the constitutionality of the bill too, but that doesn't seem to be an entirely fair reading of the editorial. Of course it's not right to say that Congress has no responsibility to consider the constitutionality of pending legislation. The editorial endorses Collins's position, which is that while the legislation does raise constitutional questions, it's a close enough call that it's reasonable for Congress to pass the measure and hear what the courts have to say, much as it did with McCain-Feingold. Conservatives called that law blatantly unconstitutional too, but the Supreme Court disagreed (for the most part). This seems like a particularly justifiable course of action when very few substantive (as opposed to constitutional) arguments have been lodged against the bill, from Ross or anyone else.

--Josh Patashnik

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