The pros and cons of DC statehood


A Gallup poll in 2019 indicated that two-thirds of American’s oppose making Washington, D.C. a state. A recent bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives wants to do it anyway.

As it stands now, Congress foots the bill for any and all costs related to keep Washington, D.C. running. If D.C. were split with a small section for governing, and the remainder as a state, then the millions of dollars required to maintain the city and its residents would fall on the citizens.

If D.C. were split to allow for statehood, the small number of people living in the governing district would be overrepresented in having the three additional electoral college votes granted by the 23rd Amendment.

Washington, D.C. was not the first capital of the country. In 1788 James Madison argued that the national capital needed to be distinct from the states to provide for its maintenance and safety after the Pennsylvania Mutiny of 1783 where 500 soldiers marched on Philadelphia, the then-current seat of Congress. The soldiers demanded payment for their services during the Revolutionary War. Pennsylvania’s failure to protect Congress was the primary reason a federal district, distinct from the states, was formed.

The delegates agreed in Article One, Section 8, of the United States Constitution to give Congress the power “to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by a cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States.

After a series of moves, Congress settled and held its first session of Congress in what is now Washington, D.C. in 1800.

The push to make Washington, D.C. a state has been going on since the 1800s. In 1871 and 1874 under President Ulysses Grant, Congress stripped D.C. of its local power, 70 years after Congress initially used the area along the Potomac chosen by President Washington as the country’s seat of power.

The change came after black men were allowed to vote in local D.C. elections in 1867. After a local government was created consisting mostly of black males, Congress decided that the president had the sole power to appoint D.C. leaders that the residents couldn’t vote for.

Not until 1961 when the 23rd Amendment was ratified that residents of Washington, D.C. were able to vote for a president and vice president. Despite the population, D.C. will only ever have 3 delegates to the Electoral College, in effect one member of the US House and two members of the US Senate, the lowest number possible.

Congress still has the power to reject any laws the D.C. mayor and council pass and has used it to strike down laws governing the residents of Washington D.C.

The last time a state was added to the union was in the late 1950s when Dwight Eisenhower added Alaska and Hawaii. For Washington, D.C. to be added as a state, it would require a senate majority of 60 senators to enact the legislation and has been historically blocked by Republican senators.

Residents of Washington, D.C. have had to pay for the responsibilities of citizenship including taxation and Selection Service registration without sharing the full privileges of citizenship. Residents pay more per capita to the federal government than any state but have no votes in Congress.

A vote taken in 2016 of D.C. residents resulted in 86% in favor of making Washington, D.C. the 51st state. Recently, House Bill H.R.51 passed with 216 votes for the bill and 208 against it but has not yet been taken up by the Senate.

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