Daschle Praises Post on Local Control Editorial
Congressional Record Extensions of Remarks, October 6, 1981 23450
Hon. Thomas A. Daschle of South Dakota in the House of Representatives
Monday, October 5, 1981
Mr. DASCHLE. Mr. Speaker, one of the slogans that had great currency in the last
election was a strong call for local control, for getting the Federal Government off our
backs. I am totally in agreement with that sentiment. There is no excuse that I can see
for the Federal Government to be involved in decisions that are in the legitimate
jurisdictions of local governments, whether they be State, county, or municipal.
That, I suppose, is why I was so disappointed in the action this body took last
Thursday when, in a display of political expediency overcoming rational legal and
constitutional processes, a majority of the House repealed the District sexual assault
I do not want to speak to the particular merits of the
bill under question. Those have been extensively discussed, for those who cared to listen,
in the debate on this floor last Thursday. Nor do I wish to impugn the individual
motivations of any of the Members who voted for the repeal. An individuals own
conscience is the final determiner of whether an action was taken out of honest
conviction, or out of fear of political reprisal.
I only know that, in my own conscience, I could not agree to an action which intrudes
the Federal Government into a local determination of what a local law should be. That is
true whether a municipality is Sioux Falls, S. Dak. or Washington, D.C.
An editiorial in the October 5 edition of the Washington Post speaks very well to this
problem. I would urge my colleagues to give it a careful reading:
[From the Washington Post]
Beating Up on the District
Seizing on bundles of inaccurate, sensationalist information and with no regard for any
sanctity of local self-government in the capital, a majority of the House of
Representatives has dealt a severe blow to the District of Columbia by striking down the
citys sexual assault reform law. How this came to pass is a tragedy of errors,
compounded by misinformed and slightly hysterical members of the House eager to score
points at home with a cheap shot at a helpless city that has no vote in the chamber.
That the House ever came to care about this bill is one mixed-up story; what happened
as a result is even worse. It began in the D.C. Council-duly created by Congress and
elected by the voters of this city to act as the local legislature. After a long and
careful study by one of the councils most careful legal minds-member David A.
Clarkelegislation was drafted and enacted to improve the sexual assault laws and to
make others more enforceable and punishable. At no timeno matter what members of the
House read, thought or were told by frenzied opponentsdid the local council consider
any move that would have encouraged or otherwise sanctioned behavior that could be deemed
But starting with misleading words such as "legalize" that were used to
describe the legislation, members of Congress and various political and religious
organizations interpreted this recodification effort as a wild effort to turn Washington
into Sin City, In fact, the proposed revisions would have made the laws here similar to
those in the states from which so much congressional opposition arose.
But thenand this is where the real crime was committedthe opponents,
including a minority of local residents urged by nervous religious leaders to plead for
congressional interventionrevived the medieval days of colonial rule in the District
of Columbia by pressuring the House into its vote to strike down the citys act.
There is no legal question that the House has the authority to shoot down any action of
the city government-but the whole congressional idea of the charter that established the
elected mayor and council in this city was to allow local government to act on purely
local matters. Certain criteria were established for deciding how this congressional
oversight should work:
The first question about any council-passed act is, does it violate the D.C. Charter
Act? Clearly, this act did not, Second, does it violate the U.S. Constitution? No one
argued that this act did. Finally, does enactment raise a federal issue or obstruct the
federal interest? This one did not, except by wild stretches of prurient imagination and
the most liberal interpretations of the federal interestoften by members who would
never stretch the federal interest that far into their own states and laws, and whose own
state laws are virtually the same as that which the District is trying to adopt.
Rep. Bob Livingston, a Republican from Louisiana, was one
of the few who took the trouble to study the legislation rather than merely rely on a
"Heydirty pictures!" fantasy about it. In a vain effort to get his
colleagues off their approach, he told them:
"It does not in my reading make legal any public displays of homosexuality or any
lewd or lascivious conduct . . . I have gone through this bill extensively, and I am
concerned again that the members . . . simply have not taken the time to look at District
of Columbia Act 4-69. If they were to do that, they would realize that many of the rumors
that have been promulgated about this particular act are not as valid as they think.
"I have to say that I have been labeled as a conservative. I am an ex-prosecutor,
and I am not trying to defend homosexuality, incest or any other deviation of mankind, but
what I am trying to say is, let us not run away with the emotionalism of the hour, but
carefully consider if we want to overturn an act which appears to have been rationally
considered by a capable deliberative body within the District of Columbia."
The vote to reject was 281 to 119a terrible blow to
home rule. Nevertheless, it should not be considered a precedent for further incursions
into local government in this city, but rather as a gross aberration based on
misinformation. The city should proceed to draft the best possible revision or the laws as
intendedand Congress should let local democracy work in the capital city.
[Home] [Editorials] [District of Columbia]