Pot, Not Potholes: D.C. Activists Take the Hill

House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations Chairman John Mica (R-FL) holds a fake hand-rolled cigarette during a hearing about marijuana laws in the Rayburn House Office Building on May 9, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Photograph by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations Chairman John Mica (R-FL) holds a fake hand-rolled cigarette during a hearing about marijuana laws in the Rayburn House Office Building on May 9, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Andy Harris doesn’t represent the District of Columbia in Congress and, unlike the person who does, he has a vote.

Yet today, the Maryland Republican got a full airing of grievances related to the District.

“DC Residents will deliver their complaints about potholes, rats, building permits, unfair parking tickets – the kind of stuff our real elected officials deal with daily,” read one solicitation. “Be creative!” 

Why? Well, Harris wants to block funding to implement a marijuana decriminalization law the District of Columbia passed.

D.C., of course, isn’t a state. As a federal district, Congress actually has ultimate authority over its affairs, though that has been somewhat delegated to the District’s city council. And it doesn’t get a vote in the U.S. House or Senate, a point emphasized by D.C. license plates that read: “Taxation Without Representation.”

What it means in practice is that it’s a small plot of land Congress actually has authority over in ways it doesn’t control states. So lawmakers — and typically we’re talking about Republicans here — occasionally introduce legislation to make a statement about national policy that pretty much only affects D.C.

That’s what Harris did here.

D.C. voting rights advocates suggested a retaliatory boycott of Ocean City, a boardwalk beach town about three hours’ drive from the Capitol, and Maryland’s Eastern Shore in general. Look at the line for french fries slathered in malt vinegar from boardwalk shacks this Saturday, and you’ll get a sense that didn’t work.

So instead, Harris got the fix-my-pothole treatment, the same one Arizona Republican Trent Franks had in 2012 over abortion legislation.

Heaven only help John Mica when the DC Vote folks discover he wants to just cede most of the District back to Maryland and be done with it.

Perhaps this will serve as fair warning to the Central Florida Republican’s aides that it’s time to start figuring out his policy position on deer culls in Rock Creek Park.

Harris spokeswoman Erin Montgomery said the congressman’s staff met with about 30 District residents one by one. Mainly the complaints weren’t about potholes or rats, she said — they were about D.C. autonomy.


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