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MONDAY, AUGUST 3, 1959
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
SUBCOMMITTEE No. 3 OF THE
Washington, D.C. The committee met at 10 a.m., pursuant to notice, in room 445, House Office Building, the Honorable James C. Davis (subcommittee chairman) presiding.
Also present: Congressmen McMillan, Broyhill, W. Smith, Harmon, Loser, Matthews, and Morris; and William N. McLeod, Jr., clerk on the Committee for the District of Columbia ; Hayden S. Garber, counsel; Ann L. Puryear, assistant clerk; Leonard Hilder, investigator; and Donald Tubridy, minority clerk.
Mr. Davis. The subcommittee will come to order, please.
The hearings today are a continuance of the hearings that began last week on all of the bills pending before this subcommittee dealing with home rule in the District of Columbia.
The first witness this morning is Mr. James Roosevelt, who is the author of House bill 4693.
We are glad to have you.
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES ROOSEVELT, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. ROOSEVELT. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I am here this morning because of the courteous and kind letter of Chairman McMillan, which I am sure was addressed to other authors of bills on this subject, in which Chairman McMillan specifically requested we appear in person before this committee and give our opinion and suggestions as to how the Congress can bypass article 1, section 8, of the Constitution of the United States by delegating our legislative powers to a local government.
. This morning, Mr. Chairman, I do not propose to suggest that we bypass article 1, but I do hope to be able to suggest to you that it will be proper, without bypassing it, to pass the kind of legislation which is before you.
The purpose of my testimony today in advocating the enactment of some form of home rule bill is to address myself principally to the constitutionality of District of Columbia home rule legislation in general.
The opponents of the bills which would give some measure of selfgovernment to the people of the Nation's Capital City point to that
part of the Constitution which specifies that Congress shall have the
They argue that this provision makes invalid any attempt by Congress to delegate legislative powers to a government elected by the citizens of the Federal District. This, of course, is a legal question. As I am sure most of my colleagues know, I am not a lawyer. However, because this matter has been brought up, I have given it as much attention as a layman can give it, and I have explored this problem, I believe, thoroughly, with the help of some very capable constitutional lawyers. Their arguments, and the material which I
. have read and reread, have convinced me, and by using their arguments I hope to convince you gentlemen, that home rule legislation for the District of Columbia is not unconstitutional.
Basically, the problem turns on the meaning of the word "exclusive.” Was it intended to exclude local inhabitants from a voice in the government of the District, or to exclude simply the States? History can help us to answer this question. The necessity of supreme legislative authority over the seat of government was forcibly impressed upon the members of the constitutional convention by incidents which occurred toward the close of the Revolution.
At one time, while the Continental Congress was in session in Philadelphia, it was surrounded and insulted by a band of mutinous member of the Continental Army. The Congressapplied to the executive authority of Pennsylvania for defence; but under the ill-conceived constitution of the State at the time, the executive power was vested in a Council consisting of 13 members, and they possessed or exhibited so little energy, and such apparent intimidation that the Congress indignantly removed to New Jersey, whose inhabitants welcomed it with promises of defending it. * * * The general dissatisfaction with the proceedings of the executive authority of Pennsylvania, and the degrading spectacle of a fugitive Congress suggested the remedial provisionsembodied in article I, section 8, clause 17 (Bowie, Constitution of the United States (1859) p. 113). In explaining that the purpose of this clause was to remove members of the General Government from any dependence on the State comprehending the seat of government, James Madison stated that a “municipal legislature for local purposes, derived from their own suffrages, will of course be allowed” to the citizens inhabitating the seat of government (Federalist, No. 43).
And from the beginning, residents of the city of Washington, the old town of Georgetown, and the town of Alexandria, all of which were then in the District of Columbia, had a measure of home rule for local purposes derived from their own suffrages under the authority of several acts of Congress.
Moreover, I would like to emphasize in the act of February 21, 1871 (16 Stat. 419), Congress created a government of the District of Columbia and vested in an elected assembly legislative power--which shall extend to all rightful subjects of legislation within said District, consistent with the Constitution of the United States * * * subject, nevertheless, to all the restrictions and limitations imposed upon States by the 10th sec. tion of the first article of the Constitution of the United States (16 Stat. at p. 453).
The congressional debates on the bill, which became the Organic Act of 1871, demonstrated that Congress intended to create a "Territorial" government for the District on the pattern of the other Territorial governments (43 Congressional Globe 612, 643. 644, 686, 687, 1363 (1871)). Both the Supreme Court of the United States and the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia viewed it as a "Territorial government." (Eckloff v.D.C., 135 U.S. 240, 241 (1890); D.C.v.
; Hutton, 143 U.S. 18, 20 (1892); Roth v. D.C., 16 App. D.C. 323, 330 (1900).)
Indeed, in Grant v. Cooke (7 D.C. 165 (1871)), Justice MacArthur stated, at page 194:
There can be no doubt that the act was formed after the model of the existing Territorial governments, and is analogous to them in its general provisions. The slightest inspection will show not only a similarity in the kind of powers conferred, but in the terms and phraseology employed by Congress to convey their intention. *** the
And at pages 200-201 : * * * the government of the District stands upon the same footing as that of any of the States or Territories within the limit of the law from which it derives its existence.
Even Justice Wylie, dissenting, conceded at page 206:
It is quite certain that the powers conferred upon it (the District govern. ment) are more extensive and discretionary than are usually granted to municipal corporations, and in many respects are such as Congress has been in the habit of granting to the governments created for its several Territories.
Now, if we can point to a decision holding that the delegation of legislative authority made by Congress in the Act of 1871 was a valid act, not inconsistent with its power to "exercise exclusive legislation in all cases, whatsoever” over the seat of government, then the question of the constitutionality of home rule legislation for the District of Columbia should be forever laid to rest. Well, there is such a decision.
In 1953, the validity of an unrepealed act of the District legislature created by the Organic Act of 1871 was called into question. In spite of attacks on the constitutionality of the Act of 1871, the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Thompson, 316 C.S. 100 (1953) held that the unrepealed act was valid. I know of no better way of bringing out the full meaning of this decision than to read to you a portion of the opinion of Mr. Justice Douglas:
It would seem then that on the analogy of the delegation of powers of selfgovernment and home rule both to municipalities and to territories there is no constitutional barrier to the delegation by Congress to the District of Columbia of full legislative power, subject of course to constitutional limitations to which all lawmaking is subservient and subject also to the power of Congress at any time to revise, alter, or revoke the authority granted *
Mr. McMillan. Will the gentleman yield? I wonder if you will read on down what Mr. Justice Douglas stated. He stated finally that there was not a decision on the delegation of powers of the Congress, it was on this one case.
Mr. ROOSEVELT. This one case, upholding the validity of the Act of 1871, as I have read it.
Mr. McMillan. I think that you will find on analysis the delegation of power was not up for consideration.
Mr. ROOSEVELT. No, sir, simply the validity of the act at that time, and the act itself could not be held valid, as I understand and read it, unless the Organic Act was valid. The parts which I am reading you now go to the fact that he did indicate that while he was not passing on the basic validity of the Organic Act, he was assuming that. I think that he says that in very clear terms. I am not a lawyer. That is my interpretation of it.
Mr. MCMILLAN. I believe that the district court and the court of appeals held opposite; is that not right?
Mr. ROOSEVELT. Yes, and the Supreme Court, which is the final court, which I am sure you know, held in this manner:
We conclude that the Congress had the authority under article I, sec. 8, cl. 17 of the Constitution to delegate its lawmaking authority to the Legislative Assembly of the municipal corporation which was created by the Organic Act of 1871 * * * (pp. 109–110)
I must conclude therefore, Mr. Chairman, that the real issue is between those who are unalterably opposed to any kind of home rule for the District as against those who believe that, until such home rule is accomplished, we countenance an evil stain upon our national banner of democracy. For far too long has the smokescreen of technicalities resulted in no action. One can only hope that at last this committee and the Congress will finally dispel the smoke and bring to pass a sound measure of local self-government for the presently disenfranchised Americans who live in the District of Columbia.
Mr. Chairman, I am sure the members of this committee undoubtedly already have read two articles which have been published in this matter. One of them is from the Georgetown Law Journal, volume 46, No. 2, the winter of 1957–58. The article is entitled “The Constitutionality of Home Rule and National Representation for the District of Columbia-Part 1,” by Roy P. Franchino.
The second one was published in the George Washington Law Review, volume 21, No. 3, January 1953, where under "Editorial Notes" there is an excellent article entitled "Delegable Powers and the District of Columbia."
I have read these, and I believe, Mr. Chairman, if additional views are necessary, the committee would find them most interesting, and if the committee does not already have them in the record I would like to submit them for the record of the committee.
Mr. Davis. They have not been submitted as yet, Mr. Roosevelt, and without objection they will be admitted.
(The articles referred to follow :)
[The George Washington Law Review, January, 1953, Vol. 21, No. 3]
DELEGABLE POWERS AND THE DISTRICT OF
A NEW SETTING
Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution of the United States provides that:
The Congress shall have power ... To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles squiare) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Govern
ment of the United States. That the power to exercise exclusive legislation under this section is equivalent to complete sovereignty is well-established. In this respect, Congress possesses the combined powers of a general and of a state governnient in all cases where legislation is possible. Moreover, its legislative power over the District is plenary::
The basic issue in the interpretation of this provision has become the delegability of the power vested in Congress. This issue has arisen repeatedly with reference to action taken by former governing bodies of the District of Columbia, and it has new significance today in terms of the growing strength of the movement to again provide home rule for the District.
At the outset therefore, the question presented is whether the doctrine of complete sovereignty prevents the grant of legislative authority to a local self-governing body within the District. Such a limitation was apparently not within the intention of the framers of the Constitution. In discussing the political rights of those who were to inhabit the nation's capital, James Madison wrote:
A municipal legislature for local purposes, derived from their
own suffrages, will of course be allowed them.“ Nor has such a narrow construction been placed on this provision by the courts. In 1879, the then Supreme Court of the District of Co
1 S.R.A., Inc. v. Minnesota, 327 U.S. 558 (1946); Stoutenburgh v. Hennick, 129 U.S. 141 (1889): La Forest v. Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia, 92 F.2d 547 (D).C. Cir.), cert. denied, 302 U.S. 760 (1937): Smith v. Olcott, 19 App. D.C. 61 (1901): Sablowsky v. United States, 101 F.2d 183 (3d Cir. 1938); United States v. Plisco, 22 F. Supp. 242 (1).D.C. 1938); Winkler v. Daniels, 43 F. Supp. 265 (E.D. Va. 1942).
: Stoutenburgh v. llemnick, 124 U.S. 141, 147 (1889); La Forest v. Board of Commissioners, 92 F.2d 547, 550 (D.C. Cir. 1937); Smith v. Olcott, 19 App. D.C. 61, 75 (1901).
* Civil Rights Cases. 109 U.S. 3, 19 (188.3); United States v. Plisco, 22 F. Supp. 242, 244 (D.D.C. 1938).
•THE FEDERALIST AND OTHER CONSTITUTIONAL PAPERS, No. 43 at 239 (Scott ed. 1898).