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We are confident that the House of Representatives will vote overwhelmingly in favor of home rule as soon as it gets the chance. We hope that the District Committee will allow the House of Representatives to vote on that question.
WASHINGTON HOME RULE COMMITTEE.
THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.
FOR DEMOCRATIC ACTION.
THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA. Mr. HARRIS. Notwithstanding those who affixed their names, their organization have insisted on appearing since that time and have testified, and one who expressed concern at the last meeting is one of those who signed this resolution in an effort to expedite these hearings.
Representatives of these organizations will appear today.
Furthermore, in complete disregard of the facts, this morning the Washington Post--and I regret that this becomes necessary to get the record clear—this morning's Washington Post says:
Hearings were to end last week but subcommittee Chairman Harris (Democrat, Arkansas) has indicated he proably will keep them going as long as possible to avoid a committee vote this session.
I challenge that statement as being the actual facts, and it would seem to me that if those interested in this matter did want to cooperate, such unwarranted statements would not be made, thereby injecting further controversy, insofar as the viewpoints of the people of the District of Columbia are concerned, and thereby continuing these hearings for an indefinite period of time.
Mr. ABERNETHY. Mr. Chairman, you have just touched on somethink that I came over for the purpose of discussing briefly myself this morning.
I saw the early morning edition of the Washington Post last night but I left it in my room. Just a few moments ago I secured another copy for the purpose of bringing it over.
I do not intend to add any further comments, but I certainly want to indorse all you have to say. So far as I am personally concerned I want to say that Mr. Roberts and the Washington Post or any other newspaper man or newspaper can be assured that I personally am not going to be bulldozed into reporting out a bill today, tomorrow or the next day or any other day until this committee has had an opportunity to function in an orderly manner. The press can be of some help in this matter, if it sees fit. If it does not that is its business, but after all this is my business, too.
Mr. HARRIS. I should like to add that in the editorial of the Washington Post an attack was made on the fact that we heard Congressman Sam Hobbs from Alabama. I think it should be noted that not one word was said about the fact that our colleague from my own State of Arkansas, Congressman Hays, took up most of one morning. I think the fact should have also been noted if the record was to be kept straight that another colleague from North Carolina, Mr. Dean is to be heard, which accounts for some of the reasons why we have to go into this week. But unfortunately and evidently, at least in my opinion, they carry a distorted picture in the editorial and the publicity referred to would try to show that this committee is using such devious means to prevent the consideration of this matter in final resolution by the committee.
The first witness to be heard this morning is Mr. Maynard B. De Witt, of the American Veterans Committee.
STATEMENT OF MAYNARD B. DEWITT, CIVIC DIRECTOR,
AMERICAN VETERANS COMMITTEE
Mr. DEWITT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My name is Maynard B. DeWitt; I am civic director of the American Veterans Committee.
Mr. HARRIS. I would like to say, Mr. DeWitt, and I am confident the other members of the committee join me in saying, that we hope you have not been inconvenienced by not being able to appear as scheduled last week, and we trust that you have not been too much put out. At any rate, we are glad to have you appear this morning and we appreciate your interest and your appearing on behalf of the organization you represent to give us your viewpoint this morning.
Mr. DEWITT. Mr. Chairman, most of us have become accustomed to a little inconvenience and have to put up with them and adjust ourselves to them.
I want to speak to you for a very few brief minutes to indorse the Kefauver bill in its entirety as it now stands.
In the Eightieth Congress, in the first session, my organization, the American Veterans Committee, with a membership of some 3,000 organized veterans, that is, of the World War II, here in Washington submitted in writing in advance our detailed testimony, outlining what we felt to be a desirable form of home rule.
That testimony is found on page 601 of the report of the committee, in the first session.
We indorsed the results of the committee's action and findings, with modifications, that are set out in the second session report, and appear on page 233.
My organization feels that the Kefauver bill is an advancement over the Auchincloss bill in the Senate in the sense that we find first plurality voting throughout the city; and we felt that the nature of the congressional action, instead of the veto over positive measures or actions, is a tremendous advancement, in the sense that the Congress, in order to disprove legislation, must act positively within 45 days.
My organization does not quite understand some of the advocates of-I raise the question whether or not they are advocates-but nevertheless they advocate something by saying that we should have national representation first. It has always been my understanding of the process of government that it starts with the family, then they banded themselves together as tribes, then they came together in cities, and then later on they had State and National governments. I do not think it is necessary for me to dwell at any length on the fact that Washingtonians are as well qualified as anybody else to vote. The fact that I or someone else was born here in Washington and does not have the vote is no argument against our not having it.
At the same time voting is a duty; it is not just a privilege, it is not just a right, but a duty. And even though a majority of the citizens in this city should disagree on what should be the situation in the city of Washington, to my mind, the lack of representation is the biggest single factor which can lead to public apathy.
In other words, to maintain that because we have clean government, that the government is not corrupt in the city, does not mean
a thing, because in the process if we have any piece of legislation passed in the city by the Congress—we have the right of petition but that right of petition is something we will always have, and we will always have the right to bring our requests to the Congress—but that cannot begin to reflect the representative opinion of the city, We could not pass a sales tax or some other form of taxation unless they have the final expression of opinion.
I would furthermore point out to the committee that in this testimony which we gave previously as an organization we went to great length in securing the assistance of some 20 persons, including some 5 lawyers into the question of constitutionality of the delegation of powers by the Congress. On the basis of their findings we felt that no further prolonged discussion should be involved as to whether or not Congress can delegate its powers. That whole question is covered, and we feel that the Congress can delegate its powers on municipal matters, and further discussion of it is just engaging in legal perfectionism and is only clouding the issue and obscuring the movement toward home rule.
Some of us like to take an interest in the democratic processes, just like some may have a great deal of interest and love for politics. But I would like to place this one question before you: Why should I or any other person born in Washington, D. C., be deprived of the privilege of playing politics, for instance, whereas those who were not born here, born in your State, for instance, may? That is a sort of discrimination which, to say the least, is a little bit unfair.
I did not have any choice about where I was born but I do maintain that I should have a choice, if I want to, to run for office. I do not say that I would, but I say that anyone, under our representative form of government, should have that privilege, and not just certain groups of people should have the privilege.
I say that all groups of people should have the privilege and the right, and it is a duty to pass on what the authority shall be, and that we should be consistent, and should have that privilege, consistent with the reservation that must be made to preserve the Federal authority in the District of Columbia.
I do not need to dwell at great length on the fact that persons in Washington, residents who are born in Washington are those who have come from the outside, are qualified to vote. I do not think that anyone would undertake the burden of proving they should not.
This committee has a tremendous obligation; it is an obligation not only to the Congress, but it is an obligation to a half million disfranchised Americans; it has an obligation, as we have suggested to the committee before, to move, to act fast, to see that this bill is given a chance to be on the floor of the Congress where each Member of the House may have an opportunity to express himself, both in debate and in vote, so that we are not cut off and put in the last run of the mill of legislation as we were in the last Congress when every other piece of important District legislation failed on account
Mr. ABERNETHY. Will you name one?
Mr. DEWITT. Well, in the last Congress, either the first or the second—the Senate had before it a very important piece of legislation dealing with the development of Marshall Heights area, in the Senate; it came up within the last day or two of the legislation, and that
particular piece of legislation fortunately came out in very good form in personal opinion.
Mr. ABERNETHY. And what else?
Mr. DEWITT. Then there can be enumerated the fact that the home rule bill
Mr. ABERNETHY (interposing). You said when every other piece of important District of Columbia legislation. Now, will you give us the benefit of some of the others?
Mr. DEWITT. I did not mean every piece of District of Columbia legislation; I was thinking of
Mr. ABERNETHY. You just said every piece of important District of Columbia legislation that came up seemed to get caught in the jam, and I just wanted to know what they were.
Mr. DEWITT. There was, if I remember correctly, I think it was in the Eightieth Congress, the matter of the District of Columbia taxation, the question of the sales tax, and the need for some form of taxation was acute
Mr. ABERNETHY (interposing). Well you were against the sales tax, were you not?
Mr. DEWITT. Against it?
Mr. ABERNETHY. You are not complaining about keeping it off the floor?
Mr. DEWItt. I think that any issue ought to be settled on its merits, and that there should be ample debate. I may be opposed to a bill, but I think the bills should be debated, by and large they should be considered, because it is very possible that I myself might be wrong.
Mr. ABERNETHY. As the representative from your organization you appeared before the committee and asked that it be bottled up, did
Mr. DEWITT. I most certainly did not.
Mr. DEWITT. There was very positive difference of opinion on the legislation.
Mr. ABERNETHY. You opposed it and by your opposition you wanted the members of the committee to vote against it, which meant, if they followed your views, holding it up?
Mr. DEWITT. Each member of the committee had the choice as to whether you should take the Harris Report, report out some tax legislation that had to be reported to the floor, whether in the form of an income tax, a personal property tax, a real estate tax or a sales tax, or some other form of legislation, in the bill that would come to the floor to be debated
Mr. ABERNETHY. I do not want to argue with you on the merits of certain bills that were proposed, but I do wish to argue this question that almost every piece of important legislation for the District of Columbia is always bottled up at the close of the session, which is not so. The fact is that you will find that almost every piece of important legislation, meets with opposition; differences of opinion exist among Members of Congress, I suspect there are 500 bills that are passed by one body are not passed by another, and there might be a good reason. And I do not want to have you misunderstand the situation.
Mr. DeWitt. I understand, Mr. Abernethy, but do you not think it would help if we could pass a bill that would permit the District authorities to deal with a lot of local legislation and perhaps avoid Congress having to deal with a lot of problems that are local?
Mr. ABERNETHY. But still it would not be the law until it came up here and was considered; the same Congress would have to make some study of it, and it still would not be the law until it acted.
Mr. DEWITT. That is quite true, and because Congress has some problems, some ticklish problems, and has to consider them from many angles. But I am in the insurance business, for instance, and in the insurance business it is sometimes brought out by the insurance man that certainly it is not a question of just whether you can afford to have insurance, but a question of whether you cannot afford to be without it.
And I maintain that the citizens of the District of Columbia cannot afford to be without the vote, and that is why I say that there is an obligation on this committee and on everyone to get some action, because at the age of 24 I do not look forward for the next 50 years to coming up to Congress every year trying to get some right that everybody else has in the States.
There is one final statement which I would like to make, and that is that in all the considerations which have gone into the question of home rule there is not a single instance where anyone has come outright and said that the District of Columbia citizens are not qualified to vote, and that the District of Columbia citizens should not have the vote. Inasmuch as no one will undertake that burden of proof, and inasmuch as time is so essential, because it is a little bit paradoxical that we should be suggesting to others abroad that they adopt democratic institutions and follow democratic processes when we in this city, right here, have a topsy-turvy form of government, which is not responsible to the citizens of the city by leaving it to a vote of the majority:
That is all, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. ABERNETHY. I would like to ask you a rather facetious question: Do you feel like you have trespassed on the time of anyone who would like to have action by this committee, by coming here and testifying this morning?
Mr. DEWITT. No, I do not feel that I have trespassed on anyone's time by giving my brief statement. I have previously testified on three different occasions on the merits and in favor of final action on such legislation, and that testimony is in the Congressional Record and if the committee is interested it can investigate that testimony and find the position of our organization.
Mr. ABERNETHY. You do not agree with the statement in the Post this morning that you have been causing the committee to postpone action on the measure by coming here and testifying?
Mr. DEWITT. My 5 minutes is not going to make that much difference, but in the process there has been a somewhat loss of time in reflecting the strictly constitutional attitude of perfectionalism which, as I mentioned before, has already been placed before Congress so many times.