D.C. Statehood Gaining Steam in Congress

Politicians are always looking for an advantage, a political edge for their interests, or increased scope & influence for their respective party. Thus, our Constitution and our government were specifically designed to resist the mob rule of the majority party at all costs. That is why we have Federalism, the Electoral College…and a capitol city that stands alone, outside the jurisdiction and influence of any one state in the Union. But now Democrats would like to put an end to tradition and create the 51st state out of Washington, D.C.

H.R. 51, which if passed would enshrine Washington, D.C. as the 51st state, is a measure which has circulated through Congress at different times, but it appears more likely than ever to get passed. As Democrats appear to be the primary drivers of this movement, so too are they finally poised to make it a reality. With the current balance of power in the legislative body, the Democrats are the majority in the House and the 50/50 split in the Senate can be overcome with a tie breaking vote by Vice President Kamala Harris. All they need is a little solidarity.

H.R. 51 was written by D.C.’s Congressional Representative, Eleanor Holmes Norton. For she and those who support the measure, it is about giving a political voice to residents of the city. Recently, while giving an opening statement on behalf of the bill, she said the following: “Congress can no longer allow D.C. residents to be sidelined in the democratic process, watching as Congress votes on matters that affect the nation with no say of their own, or watching as Congress votes to overturn the laws of the duly elected D.C. Council with no say of their own.  Full democracy requires much more.” There are currently over 200 co-sponsors for the bill and in some polling up to 54% of potential voters back the idea.

But it is not so simple for those who oppose D.C. statehood.

For Republicans such as Kentucky Congressman, James Comer, the initiative is nothing more than a partisan attempt to further entrench the Democratic party. In recent public statements he condemned the move: “D.C. statehood is all about Speaker Pelosi and the liberal Democrats consolidating their power to enact radical policies nationwide like The Green New Deal, packing the Supreme Court, and eliminating the filibuster.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel labeled it simply as “full-bore Socialism.”

Ultimately the biggest hurdle facing D.C. statehood is that it may simply be unconstitutional. In Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution it is written that Congress has the authority “To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States.” It is argued that it was intended by the Framers that our nation’s capital would remain an autonomous city so that the seat of government would remain neutral.

The quest for D.C. statehood will be contentious and filled with partisan accusations from both sides. In a city of over 700,000, Joe Biden won over 90% of eligible voters. Republicans will continue to insist that the cause is simply to create a Democrat monopoly over our nation’s government. For Democrats, they will continue to argue that these residents are not getting equal representation. Perhaps staying true to the Framers’ vision of a neutral city is the wisest option in an age of hyper-partisan divide in our politics.

Grassroots Pulse covers public policy and political issues aimed at engaging highly-active policy makers, donors, and grassroots leaders at the forefront of the political process in America today.

Image Credit: Photo by Bob Bowie on Unsplash

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