When the GOP gives up on federalism

WHEN THE GOP GIVES UP ON FEDERALISM…. The residents of the District of Columbia pay federal taxes, but have no voice in Congress. A measure is finally near passage that would, at long last, give D.C. a vote in the House of Representatives.

But before that happens, Senate Republicans want to ignore their professed principles and tinker a bit with the city’s governance.

Opponents of a bill that would award the District its first seat in the House of Representatives fought back yesterday with a blitz of amendments in the Senate, including one to repeal the city’s gun-control laws that appeared to have significant support. […]

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) said he was introducing the amendment [to undo the city’s gun laws] because the D.C. Council “has continued to enact onerous and unconstitutional firearms regulations” despite the Supreme Court decision last year overturning the city’s ban on handguns.

He produced a large chart on the Senate floor that showed the city’s murder rate over the years.

“Can you honestly tell me that gun control in D.C. has been effective?” Ensign asked.

Think about that. A lawmaker from Nevada will be gracious enough to let 600,000 American taxpayers have a vote in the House, but only if he approves of their local gun-control laws.

This is absurd. Just as a thought experiment, imagine what Ensign would say if Democrats said, “We’ll let Carson City residents have a voice in Congress, but only if they pass stricter gun-control laws.” Ensign would be apoplectic, and give impassioned speeches about “local control,” “federalism,” and Congress intervening on an issue that local representatives can address without federal mandates. And he’d be right.

But Republican principles suddenly disappear when it comes to D.C. As Clay Risen noted, “And Republicans wonder why D.C. votes overwhelmingly Democratic. Maybe it’s because for all their talk of states’ rights and federalism, when it comes to Washington the GOP is aggressively paternalistic, to the point where a senator from Nevada can, with a straight face, presume to tell Washingtonians the best way to run their city.”

If John Ensign wants to shape D.C.’s gun laws, he has another option. He can move to Washington, run for city council, and introduce a proposal to change the city’s existing policy.