I couldn't believe the news at mid-afternoon today that on a 57 "yes" to 42 "no" voice vote, the U.S. Senate today failed to endorse S. 1257. This bill finally would have given Washington, the District of Columbia its own voting representation in the House of Representatives. Can any Americans truly be proud of, or indifferent to, this outcome?
This probably is particularly sobering for 87 year old, former Massachusetts senator Edward Brooke, a Republican who is Black. Despite his best bi-partisan efforts, today's vote split along party lines. With eight exceptions, other Republicans voted against 1257 despite the fact that its major compromise would have given Utah one more congressional seat.
By just three votes, 1257 missed its target of reaching the Senate's official radar screen. This makes it all the more significant that one Democrat voted against the measure, while one more didn't bother to show up. These were Max Baucus of Montana, of the "no" vote, and the "distinguished" "Mr. No-Show", Robert Byrd of West Virginia. West Virginia is one of the District of Columbia's neighboring three states: Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. Thanks, neighbour!
I hope some Baucus constituents out there will bring this vote to his attention and ask, "Why?!" I think back to some of Robert Byrd's impressive Southern speechifying on the Senate floor over the years. Then I recall a Sunday in the '70s when I was there as he gave the commencement speech at Washington's American U. Simply by being elected to Congress, from places other than Washington, of course, men like Mssrs. Bryd and Baucus inherit virtually absolute power over Washington, DC's local political affairs. These politicians are elected by, sent to Washington, and responsible to Americans who live in other parts of the USA. Just as today with Robert Byrd, some men (and women) have ways of showing how little regard they have for the local community of a small city on the banks of the Potomac; the city where these same people flock to build careers, political reputations and very tidy nest eggs.
Sixty votes were needed to take 1257 to the next step. A thank-you to those eight (8) Republicans who voted in favor. Some of those who voted no include John McCain, Chuck Hagel, John Warner, Trent Lott, Ted Stevens, Judd Gregg and several more.
To her credit, Olympia Snowe of Maine is a Republican who supported 1257. Another little-known fact is that Republican Edward Brooke, now 87, is a native Washingtonian himself. In
1969 -1967- Brooke became the first popularly elected Black member of the U.S. Senate, from the State of Massachusetts. But Brooke is from DC where he proudly attended Washington, DC public schools and historically Black Howard University.
I remember Mr. Brooke and his Senate career from the mid-'60s to 1979. Back then, had we lived in a different, better America where those with congressional representation would have allowed the same for Washington, DC, quite possibly Edward Brooke could have realised the opportunity and honor of representing the people and neighborhoods of his own Upper South hometown.
A news item from Redding News Review quotes Sen. Brooke writing to Democrats and Republicans alike, asking for straightforward bi-partisan support for 1257.
"... Brooke also wrote to Democrats and praised them for working with a Republican president to give the District home rule and the delegate vote in the 1970s and for bringing the bill out of committee with a strong vote in June. "I was not able to help achieve representation in the Congress, when I served, for citizens of the city where I was born and nurtured," Brooke wrote, and asked Democrats to follow the 9-1 committee vote with a vote for S. 1257 in the Senate..."
("Norton Releases Separate Support Letters for D.C.'s Vote to Republican and Democratic Senators from D.C. Native, Brooke, First African American Elected by Popular Vote to U.S. Senate")
Nearly forty years after Ed Brooke's historic and bittersweet Senate career, we are still at least three votes short of that better America.