Statehood proposals for the District of Columbia have been around for years. Today, however, we have a President pledged to support D.C. statehood. Congress is controlled by the Democrats, whose platform supports statehood. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the so-called non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives from D.C., has introduced a statehood proposal in the current session of Congress.1 Jesse Jackson, the “Shadow Senator” from the District, was recently arrested while leading a group of pro-statehood protesters blocking an intersection near the Capitol.2 And readers of The Washington Post received an Independence Day issue of the Post‘s Sunday magazine devoted to the statehood cause.3 In short, statehood matters may be coming to a head in the political arena.
What most statehood proponents ignore, however, is a fundamental question that should precede their political campaign: even if it were a good idea, can Congress make D.C. a state without a constitutional amendment? As a partisan matter, support for statehood is almost exclusively Democratic, as would be New Columbia’s congressional delegation. As a constitutional matter, however, the Justice Department under both Democratic and Republican administrations has consistently agreed that statehood for the District requires a constitutional amendment; it cannot be done by mere majority vote in Congress. A review of the District’s history, the terms of the Constitution, and the practicalities of making D.C. a state, reveals that statehood legislation is ill-conceived at best.
As most of us learned in grade school, the District was created in 1790 from ten square miles of land ceded to the federal government by Maryland and Virginia.4 The purpose of the District is stated in Federalist No. 43. The Framers of the Constitution believed that the federal government needed to have control over the seat of government—over the place where it was to conduct its business—so that it would not find itself beholden to a particular state government for its day-to-day needs. The states, after all, are (or at least were then) independent sovereigns jealously guarding their political power against federal intrusion from Washington.
Story continues at: No DC Statehood