Is DC statehood bill a political grab?


Fact Box

  • On Thursday, April 22, House Democrats voted on a bill (HR. 51) to give Washington, DC statehood and “enfranchise more than 712,000 Americans.” The bill gives the territory two US senators and one representative.
  • According to the Census Bureau in 2019, Washington DC’s population consists of 46% Whites and 46% Black people. 
  • Of the 50 states, Delaware was the first to be included on December 7, 1787, while Hawaii was the last on August 21, 1959. 
  • President George Washington first took office in New York City; soon after the capital was moved to Philadelphia. The capital of Washington, DC was founded ten years later in 1790 as a compromise between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. 
  • DC does not have voting representation in Congress, and the federal government maintains jurisdiction over the city. The territory pays federal taxes, but cannot vote for president.

Andrew (No)

One of the founding arguments for the original colonies breaking away from the rule of the English Monarchy was taxation without representation. Sadly, some two hundred and forty-five years after independence, the residents of our capital are still subject to this unjust situation. DC residents must pay federal income tax, just as any other citizen would, yet they do not have the opportunity to elect voting members of our federal government. The right to elect our own leaders is fundamental in America, and therefore, the House is right to pass this bill. In no way is this a power grab, as Democrats are working to bring full and equal rights to every member of the population, and Republicans wish to stand in their way.

The citizens who live within the confines of Washington DC foot the bill for police services and a range of other services related to tourism and government activity and live with the traffic and special government events, all while not receiving the representation enjoyed by the rest of the nation. Residents of DC pay some of the nation’s highest tax rates without representation in congress.

The irony of Republicans calling this bill a power grab is pretty rich. What’s the real reason that Republicans don’t want the District of Columbia to have two senate seats and a representative in the House? Could it be that Urban areas, those with more college-educated individuals, and areas with higher percentages of minorities tend to vote Democrat? By attempting to deny these citizens equal access to representation, Republicans are making the real power grab.

Bill (Yes) 

The Democrats’ proposed DC statehood bill is a transparent power grab. The Democrats know that DC voters are staunchly liberal (voting 93% for Biden in 2020), so they see DC statehood as an easy way to gain two Senate seats as well as another in the House of Representatives. Not surprisingly, Republicans oppose DC statehood on several grounds: constitutionality, sovereignty, and potential for undue influence-peddling.

The proposed DC statehood bill runs afoul of the constitution in a couple of important ways: the framers specified in The Federalist Papers No. 43 and Article 1 of the US Constitution that DC be completely removed from the control of any state. The founders wanted to ensure a state could not blackmail the federal government by failing to provide for its basic needs (including public safety). An additional constitutional matter is the land that DC occupies. Maryland provided the land to establish DC and would retain the property rights if DC were made its own state. A more practical solution would be to allow DC’s citizens to vote using Maryland’s ballots. But this wouldn’t satisfy Democrats’ quest for additional power in Washington.

The matter of sovereignty presents an immovable roadblock to DC statehood. Individual states and the federal government are separate sovereign entities under our Federalist system of government with separate and distinct powers. Finally, a 2019 Gallup poll showed that 64% of Americans oppose DC statehood. Democrats may be acting against their own interests if they press their slim majority too hard; the 23rd Amendment gave DC residents votes in the Electoral College, and the Democrats should be thankful.

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