Democrats Introduce Senate Bill To Make D.C. The 51st State

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and other Democratic senators are introducing a bill for D.C. statehood today, a proposal with heavy opposition in the public in continuing polls.  Indeed, the bill was one of the reasons that members and advocates demanded the killing of the filibuster rule to force through the change in status based on a bare majority. If successful, it would give the Democrats two more senators in a city-state that will expected to remain reliably blue.  I have testified repeatedly on this issue.  There are strong arguments for changing the status of the District and statehood is a viable option. It would clearly be constitutional unlike past proposals. The question is whether it is the best option for the country.  Roughly 20 years ago, I proposed a “modified retrocession plan” that would be an alternative if the Congress wanted full voting rights for citizens of the District.

The proposal would make create the first city-state in our history with a population of 700,000.

However, half of the country opposes the idea. A new Harris/Hill poll shows fifty-two percent of respondents said they favored statehood while 48 percent said they opposed it.  That is heavy opposition for such a statehood change.

Biden just unveiled another proposal with heavy public opposition: a commission that would allow court-packing or other structural changes on the Court to blunt the conservative majority.

I have written a long academic publication on the status of the District of Columbia and testified at the prior hearings on allowing for voting representation of District residents. See Jonathan Turley, Too Clever By Half: The Partial Representation of the District of Columbia in the House of Representatives, 76 George Washington University Law Review 305-374 (2008).   I also testified in both the House and Senate repeatedly on such proposals.

The debate over D.C. statehood is a complex issue with historical, constitutional, and legal dimensions.  It is also an issue with important and unresolved racial issues of a black-majority city without direct representation in Congress.  I have previously voiced my view that such lack of representation for the District is unacceptable and untenable in our country.

In all, I have testified five times in the House and the Senate on this issue in Congress, particularly on the effort to simply give the District a vote in the House of Representatives.  I encouraged the Congress to avoid such flagrantly unconstitutional measures of a vote as a non-state entity and instead focus on a vote of statehood or retrocession.  That is why I offered a “modified retrocession plan”, which was also discussed in an academic work. Under my proposal, the mall and core federal buildings would remain the District of Columbia (as is the case in this legislation) but the remainder of the District would retrocede back to Maryland (as did the other half of the original District to Virginia). In this way, residents would receive full representation while receiving the benefits of various Maryland educational and other opportunities. That reduction of the federal enclave has been incorporated in some statehood proposals.  I believed that such retrocession offered the fastest course for not just full representation but improved social and educational programs for the district residents.  I laid out a phased retrocession plan that began with immediate and full representation.  This could be done by congressional vote.

People of good-faith can disagree on such proposals and the current legislation is clearly a constitutional approach to reaching a final resolution on the lack of representation in Congress.  Indeed, it is important to hear from those who believe that statehood is an important step toward dealing with the historical racial inequalities and discrimination in our nation.  Modified retrocession may not be enough to resolve such issues for many in our community.

179 thoughts on “Democrats Introduce Senate Bill To Make D.C. The 51st State”

  1. How does Mr. Turley figure it’s clearly Constitutional? Has the House of Delegates approved the idea?

  2. The fact D.C. isn’t a state is just stupid. Ditto Puerto Rico. They deserve equal representation for their taxation and the country needs to even up the outsized influence the less populated states enjoy on the federal level. Plus, ridding ourselves of the remnants of slavery politics equals nothing but a positive.

    “However, half of the country opposes the idea. A new Harris/Hill poll shows fifty-two percent of respondents said they favored statehood while 48 percent said they opposed it. That is heavy opposition for such a statehood change.”

    First, no it’s not heavy opposition, it’s the minority opinion. The more accurate way to report that poll’s findings would be to say the nation favors D.C. statehood by four points, Jon. FIFY.

    Elvis Bug

    1. Perfec,t smaller states need to know that secession is the only choice not be relegated to mere colonies. I am all for Texit and other states pulling the plug. DC without doubt is the most criminal laden, corrupt regions of the country. Such a move like getting rid of the electoral college are clear indications of the Dissolution of the contract between the States and the Union.

        1. Ahhh…the consequences of invading the Capitol.

          Velvet divorce is not only wildly unrealistic on so many levels, but even if conditions were perfect it wouldn’t work. Why? because the breakaway states would all have cities that would be on totally different philosophical footing than the outlands. Think Afghanistan.

          Who’d be your personal warlord, Absurdist Art?

          Elvis Bug

      1. Why get rid of the electoral college altogether? Just make it so that a vote in Wyoming doesn’t carry three times the weight of a vote from California. 3 to 1 is too great of a skew.

        A Texas breakaway state is a fantasy. Strategically they’d be an island, caught between the States and Mexico. Chances are they’d get caught up in a border war on all sides. The west coast and northeast would go to Canada as the other states jockey over who to go with.

        No, D.C. is not the most corrupt. it’s discussions like these that highlight how problematic not agreeing on the same facts is. War game out any breakaway scenario, nightmare every single one of them. Especially for the southern states…, the majority of the U.S. tax base comes from the coasts and the upper midwest.

        Elvis Bug

    2. First, a question: if the residents of DC were reincorporated to MD and VA and able to enjoy the exact same representation as every other state would you be satisfied? If not, then you really don’t care about representation and it’s merely a bulwark to enshrine political power.

      Puerto Rico’s residents do not pay federal income taxes. DC residents have the highest annual income in the United States. Because of racism. Every bit of infrastructure was paid for by the federal taxes of all US citizens. If anything, the residents of DC have been underwritten by the rest of the country.

      If granting DC statehood would fix the legacy of slavery why has it not fixed it in ANYWHERE else in the f’ing world?
      Besides, half of DC’s 575,000 adult citizens are white.

      Just like every other Democratic scheme they’ve only thought through the first step. Kind of like Harry Reid and the filibuster. Unless the Retro secession plan described above by Jonathan is adopted I can’t imagine it would take very long before the federal government has creeped it’s way into near full control of the new “State of DC.” All it would take is a few harmless instances where the state officials defer to a friendly administration in the White House and the precedent has been set.

      Blinded by the prospect of complete hegemonic domination over their fellow countrymen no one in the party raises the prospect of another Trump-like president and how quickly (like 4 days and 168 EO’s) the buyers remorse sets in and how those of us on the right will tell you, and stop me if you’ve heard this one before, “we told you so.”

  3. The fact D.C. does not get equal representation for their taxation is just stupid. Make D.C. a state. Puerto Rico as well. Plus it’s the only way to break the outsized influence the less populated states having more representation for their taxation.

    Also, I’m always wildly impressed with your attempts to even up polling which is not even, Jon: “However, half of the country opposes the idea. A new Harris/Hill poll shows fifty-two percent of respondents said they favored statehood while 48 percent said they opposed it. That is heavy opposition for such a statehood change.”

    The shorter, more accurate way to report this is by saying the country favors D.C. statehood by four points. FIFY.

    Elvis Bug

    1. The fact D.C. does not get equal representation for their taxation is just stupid. Make D.C. a state. Puerto Rico as well. Plus it’s the only way to break the outsized influence the less populated states having more representation for their taxation.

      1. Why make DC a state when it can be retroceded?

      2. Why make Puerto Rico a state when there is no enthusiasm for the idea on the island itself (referenda have failed again and again).?

      3. Why ‘break the outside influence’ of low population states? Having competing principles of representation and concurrent majorities is the whole point of the architecture and equal representation in the Senate is an entrenched clause.

      1. Who gets D.C.? Maryland? Virginia? Why not Colorado? Colorado once entertained the idea of taking in where I live (which is off the coast of RI)…

        Puerto Rico, offered the right (fair) deal would jump at the chance.

        And read what you so kindly quoted again…, you’ll find you misread a word. Big difference between outside and outsized, no? And if you don’t think outsized is problematic we’ll probably have nowhere to go with the discussion.

        Elvis Bug

        1. Then you would have to fix the other states that enjoy “outsized” representation. Or does it only need to be fixed if it results in more Democratic electors?

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