Thomas Gallatin / Mar. 26, 2021

Why DC Statehood Is a Constitutional No-No

Republicans note that HR 51 is all about Democrats accumulating more power.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee held a hearing Wednesday on HR 51, a bill that would advance the District of Columbia on a path toward statehood. Democrats have long touted this action under the guise of finally providing “representation” for the city’s residents, but the truth is far more partisan — the overwhelmingly Democrat District would grant the party a full voting member in the House and two more Senate seats. But there’s actually a bigger problem for Democrats than pure politics: the Constitution, specifically Article I, Section 8.

Veteran political analyst David Harsanyi sums up the issue: “There are numerous principled reasons to oppose D.C. statehood. But, really, no arguments are more applicable than the ones offered by the Founders, who created a federal district for the distinct purpose of denying it statehood. First, because they were concerned about the seat of federal power being controlled by a hostile or intrusive state government. Second, because they knew that if the capital were in a state — much less its own state — the people would vote to grow and accumulate federal power. Both situations were incompatible with the proper separation of powers and state rights.”

Democrats want to undo our Founders’ vision? Who knew?

Even if the Democrats were able to push through a DC statehood bill, that would do little to ensure that DC becomes a state. To make DC a state would require a constitutional amendment passed with two-thirds approval of both chambers of Congress and ratified by three-quarters of the States. The prospect of that happening is highly unlikely, to say the least.

Still, Republicans are taking the Democrats’ partisan power play seriously. Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) warned, “DC is a pawn being used by congressional Democrats to gain power, all without regard to the constitutional and practical issues that making the district a state presents.”

The National Review editors observe, “Washington, as it now stands, has already accumulated far more political power than any city in the nation. Transforming the seat of this authority into a state would create voters who are almost wholly incentivized to grow the power and size of the federal government at the expense of other states.”

While Democrats love to argue that the 670,000 residents of DC lack the same congressional representation enjoyed by residents of the 50 states, it’s telling that they are unwilling to consider less politically contentious solutions. If representation is really such an issue, why not shrink the district and seek to have many of the residents of DC incorporated into the state of Maryland? In other words, there are more workable solutions that won’t run counter to the Founders’ purpose in placing the capitol outside of any one state.

(Correction: The ratification threshold has been corrected.)

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