The House Democrats, with the support of President Joe Biden, are set to vote to approve the establishment of the “State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth” as our 51st state today. I had testified and written about D.C. statehood for decades and, as noted in a recent column, I believe that the best interests of both the country and the district residents is found in retrocession, not statehood.
As noted earlier, there has been comparatively little debate of the bill in the House, where perfunctory hearings rushed it to the floor. What was missing by design in the House was any acknowledgment, let alone consideration, of alternatives to creating the first Vatican-like city-state in the country. Most importantly, there was no discussion of what district citizens could gain from an alternative to statehood — retrocession.
The tragedy is that we have never had a full and honest debate of the options for securing full representational rights for district residents. There is little interest in having such a national discussion or submitting this question to the voters in the form of a constitutional amendment. Polls show a majority of Americans still oppose D.C. statehood as they have for decades despite both well-funded campaigns and overwhelming support in the media. There has always however been a pathway to full representational status through retrocession. However, the Democratic leadership again cut off consideration of that and other options in another “take or leave it” legislative construct. There are also opposing views on whether a constitutional amendment is warranted and, of course, the preference of some to continue the original intent of the Framers in the creating of “federal city” that is not controlled by any state.
The bill is not likely to succeed in the Senate and we will lose another year without a full and civil discussion of these options. Instead, it will fail and deepen our divisions while supporting calls for killing the filibuster rule. The politics remains the same as does the status of the district.