Federal overreach is bad, according to Jason Chaffetz. Except in D.C.

Thursday , March 02, 2017 - 5:30 AM

LYNNETTE AND RYAN CRAIG, special to the Standard-Examiner

Hello, Rep. Chaffetz.

We write as children of Utah who have made our home in the District of Columbia for the last 15 years. In your Jan. 27 op-ed in The Washington Post, you propose that Congress nullify D.C.’s democratically enacted Death with Dignity Act. Although you claim to be motivated “in the interest of protecting D.C. residents,” it is clear that you do not really have our interests at heart. In truth, you are pandering to your more conservative base in Utah to whom, unlike us, you are actually accountable.

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Having congressmen from districts hundreds of miles away interfere with our local laws is not a new experience for us. Lawmakers like you have followed this same pattern of despotism for decades, often while simultaneously railing against federal overreach back in your home districts.

One particularly tragic example: In 1999, led by then-Oklahoma Rep. Ernest Istook, Congress banned our city from implementing a needle exchange program designed to reduce the transmission of HIV (something many cities have done before and since with success). After the ban was ultimately lifted in 2008, The Washington Post reported that the HIV transmission rate in our city dropped by some 70 percent. But what did Istook care? It was not voters in Oklahoma who were suffering and dying.

You have been particularly interested in playing this same despotic game from your first moments in office:

• In 2010, you introduced a bill to quash our democratically enacted law recognizing same-sex marriage (now a recognized constitutional right).

• You led the charge to prevent the implementation of D.C.’s referendum on budget autonomy — our right to spend our own locally raised tax dollars without congressional approval — despite our taxpaying voters approving budget autonomy by an overwhelming majority.

• You even threatened to jail our mayor for enforcing our referendum to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, which more than 70 percent of our voters approved.

The logic of your hypocrisy is as easy to understand as it is cowardly. You push policies that the special interests you represent favor, without regard for the consequences of those policies for D.C. taxpayers. And even if those consequences are disastrous you are insulated from any risk to your career because we can’t vote against you.

Late last year when President Obama designated the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, you said it was “a slap in the face to the people of Utah, attempting to silence the voices of those who will bear the heavy burden it imposes.” Your lack of irony in making this statement is compounded to near absurdity by your reliance on the Declaration of Independence to justify your crusade against our Death with Dignity Act. Do you not understand that for some who are suffering immeasurably, their pursuit of happiness may mean choosing to end their life in dignity and on their own terms, rather than being forced by a congressman from a state nearly 2,000 miles away to live out their last days in agony?

Although you may disagree that our Death with Dignity Act is a wise policy solution to an intractable problem, it is our inalienable right as citizens of this great nation to determine this question for ourselves. And that question has been settled democratically by our City Council. Please remember the next time you want to lecture us sanctimoniously about our local laws that despotism like yours is the very issue over which the Revolutionary War was fought, and it is a fundamental insult to the rights of all free people who seek self-determination, not just D.C. taxpayers.

Finally, please do not take such comfort in citing Article I, Section 8, Clause 17. We must demand that you remember that our Constitution has some 27 Amendments, a number of which abolish crimes and imperfections in the original conception of our Union.

The amendment liberating D.C .has yet to be written, but know this: we will “rage” as citizens and taxpayers for statehood and for full representation. We will fight — and we implore our brothers and sisters in Utah to join us in this struggle — to escape the tyranny you impose on D.C. taxpayers, our children, and yes, the sick and dying.

Lynette Craig is part of the leadership team at Americans for Self Rule, which describes itself as “a PAC working to protect the residents of Washington, D.C., from federal overreach.” She and her husband Ryan are Utahns who moved to Washington 15 years ago. U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz is a Republican who represents Utah’s 3rd Congressional District.

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