District of Columbia home rule
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District of Columbia home rule is the ability of residents of the District of Columbia to govern their local affairs. As the federal capital, the constitution grants the United States Congress exclusive jurisdiction over the District in "all cases whatsoever."
At certain times, and presently since 1973, Congress has allowed certain powers of government to be carried out by locally elected officials. However, Congress maintains the power to overturn local laws and exercises greater oversight of the city than exists for any U.S. state. Furthermore, the District's elected government exists at the pleasure of Congress and could theoretically be revoked at any time.
A separate yet related controversy is the District's lack of voting representation in Congress. The city's unique status creates a situation where D.C. residents do not have full control over their local government nor do they have voting representation in the body that has full control.
James Madison explained the need for a federal district on January 23, 1788, in the Federalist No. 43, arguing that the national capital needed to be distinct from the states, in order to provide for its own maintenance and safety. An attack on the Congress at Philadelphia by a mob of angry soldiers, known as the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783, had emphasized the need for the government to see to its own security.〔Crew, 66〕 Therefore, the authority to establish a federal capital was provided in Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, which states that Congress shall have the power:
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States
The phrase "exclusive legislation in all Cases whatsoever" has been interpreted to mean that Congress is the ultimate authority over the District, thereby limiting local self-government by the city's residents. However, the Founding Fathers envisioned that Congress would devolve some of this power to the local level. For example, Madison stated in the Federalist No. 43 that "a municipal legislature for local purposes, derived from their own suffrages, will of course be allowed them."〔
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