Warner Should Lead Fight for D.C. Before Retiring

Posted September 8, 2008 at 3:54pm

Before retiring from the Senate, John Warner (R-Va.) has the opportunity to add a significant chapter to his distinguished record of public service. Warner should rally his compatriot GOP military veterans — there are 15 in the Senate — to vote for cloture on S. 1257. A version of this bill, which provides a House vote for Washington, D.C., and an additional seat for Utah, has passed the House with bipartisan support.

Inspiration for such leadership on Warner’s part can be found in two sources:

1. The Fairfax Resolves of 1774, and, 2. the historic record of the Republican Party in support of D.C. voting rights, particularly the leadership that Republican presidents and Senators who were military veterans have demonstrated on behalf of the disenfranchised residents of the nation’s capital.

In July 1774, George Mason met with George Washington at Mount Vernon to draft a statement of grievances, or “resolves,” against the British Crown and Parliament. On July 18, Washington presented these resolves at the Fairfax County Courthouse, for debate and adoption by the assembled inhabitants of Northern Virginia. Two of the 24 adopted should be of particular interest to Sen. Warner:

1. “The People should be governed by no Laws to which they have not given their Consent, by Representatives freely chosen by themselves.”

2. “Taxation and Representation are in their Nature inseparable.”

Washington was directed by the assembled Virginians to convey the resolves to the Continental Congress. The 24 Fairfax Resolves, as they became known, thus provided the foundation for the numerous grievances outlined in the Declaration of Independence adopted by the Continental Congress two years later.

As a military veteran, Warner should be especially able to appreciate why, historically, it has been Republican vets in Congress who were the leaders of efforts to give D.C. residents voting representation in Congress. For example, during his 36 years of service in the House and Senate, Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.), a World War I veteran, was a pivotal leader in the cause of D.C. voting rights. Sen. Prescott Bush (R-Conn.), another World War I vet, was always at Dirksen’s side on this issue. Bush was the father and grandfather of Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

World War II GOP vets have also been prominent advocates of D.C. voting rights. Former Sens. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), Edward Brooke (R-Mass.), Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) and Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) all advocated valiantly for the disenfranchised residents of D.C. Two other veterans who became Republican presidents, Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, sent messages to Congress in support of D.C. representation.

These Republican presidents and Senators, citing language derived from the Fairfax Resolves regarding taxation and representation, added another important resolve: “That no citizen should be sent to war to defend the United States by a Congress in which they are not represented by members they themselves elect.”

Warner has crossed the Francis Case Memorial Bridge countless times when driving from his home in Virginia to work at the Capitol. Case was a World War I vet and a Republican from South Dakota who served in the House and Senate from 1937 until his death in 1962. Congress named the bridge after him in honor of his service. The legislative history of this memorial act specifically cites Case’s long-standing advocacy of D.C. voting rights in Congress to justify the designation.

Warner should invite members of the D.C. Republican Committee to meet with him regarding this issue. Some of us have lived in D.C. for generations and fought in defense of our nation. My son, Army Capt. James Rimensnyder, a 2000 Woodrow Wilson High School graduate, will soon begin his second tour in Iraq. My son and other D.C. residents have fought, and some have died, for the right of residents of Baghdad to be represented in Iraq’s national legislature. How ironic that they are denied the right of voting representation in their own legislature!

The D.C. Republican Party platform supports a vote in the House for the District. It is my hope that Warner will allow D.C. Republicans to make their case to him personally. The Senator has strong ties to D.C., beginning with his 1945 graduation from my son’s alma mater, Wilson High. He should schedule a meeting with us today.

Nelson Rimensnyder served in the Army and is a member of the D.C. Republican Committee.