WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama‘s limousine carried the District of Columbia’s “Taxation Without Representation” license plate, a subtle, but some say important, protest over the city’s lack of a voting member in Congress.
The White House said Tuesday that Obama has lived in D.C. for four years and has seen firsthand “how patently unfair it is for families in D.C. to work hard, raise children and pay taxes, without having a vote in Congress.”
Obama’s official vehicles will begin using the symbolic license plates during the inauguration this weekend. They will remain on White House vehicles throughout the president’s four-year term.
“Attaching these plates to the presidential vehicles demonstrates the president’s commitment to the principle of full representation for the people of the District of Columbia and his willingness to fight for voting rights, home rule and budget autonomy for the District,” the White House said.
The city created the license plate in 2000, and President Bill Clinton put the tags on his limousine before he left office. They were taken off when President George W. Bush was inaugurated.
Obama carried the nation’s capital with more than 90 percent of the vote in 2008 and in 2012. But some have accused him of ignoring D.C. interests and snubbing his residential neighbors.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson visited the White House last week to press the issue with Obama advisers.
“It’s a small step, but it’s significant,” he said. “Our goal is full voting rights, to have the same rights and privileges that every citizen has. The license plates don’t give us that.”
There are 632,000 residents in the city, more than two states, Vermont and Wyoming, according to census figures.
Mayor Vincent Gray thanked Obama for turning a spotlight on the city.
“I appreciate the president agreeing to bring attention to this important issue during the inauguration festivities,” Gray said.
The first two years of Obama’s presidency were the best opportunity to gain representation for D.C. with Democrats controlling Congress. In 2009, the Senate passed a bill to give D.C. a vote on the House floor. But Republican senators added an amendment to dismantle the city’s tight gun control laws. The bill ultimately died in the House.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district’s nonvoting member of Congress who has fought for full voting rights for decades, also cheered Obama’s move.
“Kudos to the president for agreeing to a small but larger than life sign of his commitment to the district and its residents,” she said. “Each step must be counted as bringing us closer to our full entitlement as American citizens who pay more than our fair share of federal taxes and have served in all the nation’s wars, always without the rights those obligations demand.”