News & Politics

DC Councilmember Who Opposed the Assisted-Suicide Bill Doesn’t Want Congress to Repeal It

"It passed overwhelmingly, it was signed by the mayor, and you don’t win them all," Brianne Nadeau says.

Photograph courtesy of Brianne Nadeau.

DC Councilmember Brianne Nadeau opposed legislation last year that would allow physician-assisted suicide in the District. That doesn’t mean she wants the US House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee to try to strike it down.

Nadeau was one of two councilmembers to oppose the bill last November; she worried that lower-income families with scant access to affordable healthcare could opt to end sick patients’ lives prematurely. In fact, polling has asserted that assisted-suicide is  unpopular with African Americans, and none of the six states that have legalized the practice (Oregon, Washington, California, Colorado, Montana, and Vermont) have similar demographics to DC, which is about 46 percent black. Mayor Muriel Bowser nonetheless signed the bill into law in December.

But this past Monday Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz voted to block the law, exercising Congress’ constitutional power to overturn DC legislation. It was perhaps the first of many interventions DC might expect from a Republican-controlled Congress during the Trump administration. Chaffetz cited a “deep personal, moral conviction” against the bill, and said he thought the law could “create a marketplace for death,” according to the Washington Post. 

Rather than be cheered by Chaffetz’s action, though, Nadeau was outraged. “Even though I didn’t support this legislation, it passed overwhelmingly, it was signed by the mayor, and you don’t win them all,” she says.

If DC politicians start “using Congress as a crutch to win our own political battles,” she says, “that’s when we’ve lost for everyone.” On Monday, Nadeau attended a rally at the Atlas Performing Arts Center called “Hands Off DC.”

Chaffetz faces an uphill battle to squash the assisted-suicide law. Friday marks the end of the monthlong period Congress has to review DC legislation, and it’s unlikely the Senate will vote on a companion resolution in time. Anyway, Nadeau says, he should stick to his day job.

“If I were picked to be in the Government Oversight Committee right now in the house,” she says, “I’d be investigating foreign government influence on our White House. I’d be investigating the loss of the Navy SEAL in the president’s first military operation. I’d be looking at whether these attributions of voter fraud have any basis in reality (my guess of course is they don’t). Instead, we have an oversight chair who is essentially micromanaging a local government that nobody here elected to him to represent.”

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Jackson Knapp
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