House Democrats Advance Bill to Make Washington, D.C. a State

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, questions Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell during a US Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine covid-19, focusing on an update on the federal response in Washington, DC, on September 23, 2020. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds / POOL / AFP) (Photo by …
STEFANI REYNOLDS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The House Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), has advanced Bill H.R. 51 by a vote of 25-19 to create D.C. statehood, which may receive a full House vote next week in an increasingly shrinking Democrat majority.

Despite committee clearance after many counter amendments, Rep. Any Biggs (R-AZ) said the ultimate argument seems to hinge “on the 23rd Amendment, which guarantees the federal Capitol at least three electors in presidential elections.”

Biggs’ view is supported by many legal scholars, who have denied D.C. statehood’s feasibility without a Constitutional amendment to the 23rd Amendment. Breitbart News reported Tuesday “the Office of Legal Counsel in 2007 stated it was unconstitutional when Democrats attempted to give D.C. voting power in Congress without making it a full state.”

Additionally, the Justice Department under former President Reagan and former President Carter deemed the transformation of Washington, D.C. into a state unconstitutional, along with Democrat Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who said a similar proposal was unconstitutional in 1963.

The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, when he was a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, also opposed such legislation when he wrote, “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.”

Opposition to D.C. statehood is anchored in three traditional arguments:

  1. 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.
  2. H.R. 51 would require Congress to ignore the plain command of the 23rd Amendment.
  3. 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.

Twenty-two state Attorneys General sent a letter Tuesday to the Biden administration and Congress arguing Washington, D.C. cannot become a state through legislation, but only through the process of 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,” they wrote.

“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 stated.

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