Mr. CONNOLLY. Mr. Speaker, I have listened with great, rapt attention this afternoon to my friends, Mr. Chaffetz and Mr. Meadows, who have gone on eloquently about protecting the Constitution of the United States at, of course, the collateral expense of the people of the District of Columbia.
They cite the Constitution as if the Constitution and the Founders who wrote it were fully cognizant of the evolution that was going to take place in the District of Columbia when we know, as a historical fact, the Constitution was actually written before there was a District of Columbia, let alone almost 700,000 American citizens still denied voting representation in this body today.
In fact, that very Constitution my friends cite protected slavery, decided that certain people of color were only worth three-fifths of the normal mortal, but allowed the South to count them for the purposes of representation in this body.
The same Constitution. We changed it. We took cognizance of changes in reality. The fact that you exercise your will over an entire city just because you can does not make it right or noble.
In fact, if we follow the logic of my friends on the other side of the aisle, why not just take over the day-to-day mechanics of running the government of the city?
So let's do rezoning. Let's do emergency preparedness. Let's run the police department. Let's run the EMT and the fire department. Let's take over mental health facilities and human services.
Why go only halfway? Why go only halfway? I am curious. What is it about the budget that is so sacred? All the rest you are going to let go.
This final amendment, Mr. Speaker, will preserve a small modicum of the District's control over local taxpayer dollars to prevent and treat the emerging threat of Zika. If adopted, we can move to immediate final passage of the bill.
Although we may disagree--and do--on the underlying purpose of the bill, surely we can agree on the seriousness of the Zika threat. There have already been 4 reported cases of travel-associated Zika here in the District, 15 in the Commonwealth of Virginia, my home State, and 17 in Maryland.
It may seem foreign to some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, but in the National Capital Region, the two States, D.C., and the region's local governments actually have a rich tradition of working together, including in public health.
Working through the Council of Governments, which I used to chair, our local and State partners regularly come together. The District of Columbia needs to be a full partner in those regional efforts so that it cannot be placed in a position of having to come to Congress to actually ask for permission before spending its own local dollars on Zika prevention and education.
I might add, it is not just the people of the District of Columbia who will be at risk if we are not addressing Zika in an efficacious way; it is the 12 million constituents, the people my friend from North Carolina (Mr. Meadows) represents and that I represent who come to this city every year to visit the Nation's Capital. Will we protect them? Or will we dither here in Congress?
There is irony in that, isn't there? Because we can't get our own budget together. We can't pass our own appropriations bills, but we are going to second-guess the local government here in the District of Columbia because somehow we do it better? I don't think there is a neutral observer who would conclude that.
But we are going to do it cloaked in the respectability of a constitutional argument that is, I believe, false and antiquated--not because the Constitution is antiquated, but because what was known in the late 18th century at the time of the writing of the Constitution is different today.
Are we going to return to the plantation mentality Congress used to have with respect to the District of Columbia? Or are we actually going to act on principle here, not ideology? We are not going to fire up our base or the right-wing radio talk show hosts. We are actually going to do the right thing--the right thing for 700,000 fellow citizens--and let them have an ounce of decency with respect to their own self-determination.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. MEADOWS. Mr. Speaker, my friend opposite--and I say that in the most authentic and complete terms because, indeed, the gentleman is my friend--raises a point of debate about the Constitution and the fact that explicitly in the Constitution, our Founding Fathers reserved this particular authority in Article I, section 8, clause 17, which shows the wisdom of our Founding Fathers to anticipate what, indeed, we are debating here today.
For many of the other arguments that my good friend has made in terms of what we need to change, there is the appropriate place for those changes to be made, and that is exactly what this debate has been about. It is about the rule of law; it is about the Constitution; and it is about this institution being the proper place to make those determinations on behalf of the will of We the People.
Now, the motion to recommit talks about Zika funding. And I might remind the gentleman that, indeed, in this very body within the last few days, [Page: H3216]
we have already passed funding to address the Zika virus' potential healthcare concern; and, indeed, this is the correct body for us to do that. It is not the District of Columbia or any other municipality across the country. It is, indeed, this body, the role for this particular body that has been reserved
constitutionally; and it has been that way since the very founding of this great country we all call home.
I would also add that, as we start to look at this, the debate has been over local control. And when we start to see the debate that continues to play out, this particular issue was reserved in the Constitution, and it was solely that of Congress to have all legislative power over the District.
Now, is that somehow inconsistent with the fact that we want to make sure that all control is local? It is not. Because as we look at that, we must, indeed, make sure that we stand up.
And I would ask all of my colleagues to look at the very foundation of who we are as an institution, as Members of Congress. To allow the Budget Autonomy Act to stand in place would not only usurp the authority--the congressional authority--that has been given to us in our Constitution but, indeed, it would undermine it for future Congresses to come.
So it is with great humility, but also with great passion, that I would urge my colleagues to defeat the motion to recommit, knowing that we have already addressed the particular funding requirement that the gentleman from Virginia brings up--defeat the motion to recommit, and support the underlying bill.
I yield back the balance of my time.