Twenty-two Republican Attorneys General wrote a letter to Congress and the Biden administration, contending Washington, D.C. cannot become a state through legislation but only through a Constitutional amendment.
“If this Congress passes and President Biden signs this Act into law, we will use every legal tool at our disposal to defend the United States Constitution and the rights of our states from this unlawful effort to provide statehood to the District of Columbia,” Fox News reported.
“Accordingly, not only does Congress lack the authority to create an entirely new state out of the District, but it also does not have the authority to reduce the size of the District to the equivalent of a few federal buildings and surrounding parks,” the letter concluded.
The letter comes as Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has introduced H.R. 51 to shrink the district while transitioning the vacated area into a state, dubbed the “State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.”
Republicans regard D.C. statehood as a naked power grab, and many legal scholars are confident the Supreme Court would strike down D.C. statehood as unconstitutional for the reasons these authorities have set forth over the years.
For instance, the Office of Legal Council in 2007 said it was unconstitutional when Democrats attempted to give D.C. voting power in Congress without making it a full state. The Justice Department of former President Carter and former President Reagan believed the conversion of Washington D.C. into a state was unconstitutional, along with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy—a Democrat—who also said in 1963 a similar proposal was unconstitutional.
Moreover, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, when he was sitting on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, opposed such a measure, saying, “It is … fanciful to consider as ‘politically powerless’ a city whose residents include a high proportion of the officers of all three branches of the federal government and their staffs.”
The Heritage Foundation also points to three arguments against H.R. 51:
- Our nation’s capital was always meant to be unique. The founders wanted it to be a federal district, existing beyond the confines or influence of any one state.
- H.R. 51 would require Congress to ignore the plain command of the 23rd Amendment.
- Even those who support D.C. statehood admit district residents enjoy special benefits due to where they live and would enjoy an outsize influence in Congress.
The bill will be considered Wednesday in a House Oversight Committee hearing before a potential House vote the following week. 215 Democrat members have co-sponsored the bill.
The states which joined the letter were South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, Florida, Alabama, Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Kentucky, Mississippi, West Virginia, Idaho, Kansas, Arizona, and Oklahoma.