On Thursday, Democrats’ first legislative day with their new majority in the House, they introduced a smattering of bills that prove two things: 1) They’re not serious about governing; and 2) They intend to spend the next two years remaining as divisive as possible.
Throwing red meat to their perpetually angry base has become more important in the lead-up to 2020 than working with the GOP majority in the Senate and the White House to get good things done for our country.
Outside of legislation that would require presidential candidates to reveal 10 years’ worth of tax returns (as if personal taxes are anyone else’s business) and introducing articles of impeachment, Democrats also introduced measures to get rid of the Electoral College and prohibit presidents from pardoning themselves and their family members.
None of that will pass, of course, and neither will another piece of legislation that serves another Left-wing Democratic fantasy: Making Washington, D.C., a state, complete with another U.S. representative and two shiny new senators, all of whom will, of course, be Democrats.
The statehood bill is H.R. 51 and it was introduced by DC’s long-serving delegate to the House, Eleanor Holmes-Norton.
â€œToday as my first act of the 116th Congress, I signed and introduced #HR51 to make DC the 51st state, the only way to grant more than 700,000 taxpaying American citizens living in our nationâ€™s capital their full democratic rights,” she said in a video posted to her Twitter account.
“I have a commitment that there will be a hearing on H.R. 51 from our good Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings that this bill will get a prompt hearing and then, ofÂ course, go to the floor,” she added.
Today as my first act of the 116th Congress, I signed and introduced #HR51 to make DC the 51st state, the only way to grant more than 700,000 taxpaying American citizens living in our nation’s capital their full democratic rights. #DCStatehood pic.twitter.com/MFCWl0sQYN
— Eleanor #DCStatehood Holmes Norton (@EleanorNorton) January 3, 2019
This is a ritual for Norton-Holmes; she’s introduced DC Statehood legislation regularly throughout her decades in office. None of them have been successful and this one isn’t going to be, either.
Why? Doesn’t DC ‘deserve’ statehood? Aren’t DC residents Americans? Aren’t they eligible to receive the same set of “democratic rights” as the rest of us?
Yes. And no.
Our nation’s capital isn’t just another city or another enclave. It’s the seat of our government — a seat that is required under Article I, Sect. 8, Clause 17 of the Constitution, which says:
To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings…
Washington, D.C., cannot become a state — at least, not without changing the Constitution, which would require the approval of three-fourths of all states (and good luck with that, Eleanor).
But don’t take our word for it. We’ll let the constitutional scholars speak to the issue.
Lee A. Casey, a partner in the Washington office of Baker Hostetler who servedÂ during the George H.W. Bush Administration in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, writes:
Because of the District’s unique character as the federalÂ city,Â neither the Framers nor ConÂgress accorded the inhabitants the right to elect Members of the House of Representatives or the Senate. In exchange, however, the District’s resiÂdents received the multifarious benefits of the national capital. As Justice Joseph Story noted inÂ Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States,Â “there can be little doubt, that the inhabiÂtants composing [the District] would receive with thankfulness such a blessing, since their own importance would be thereby increased, their interests be subserved, and their rights be under the immediate protection of the represenÂtatives of the whole Union.” In effect, the Framers believed that the residents were “virtuÂally” represented in the federal interest for a strong, prosperous capital.
There have been a number of efforts to change this original design, including a proposed constitutional amendment (passed by Congress in 1977) that would have granted the District of Columbia congressional voting repÂresentation “as if it were a state.” This amendÂment, however, was not ratified in the seven-year period established by Congress. Other proposals have included a retrocession of most, or all, of the District to Maryland-a plan that Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in 1964 deemed impractical and unconstitutional-and the admission of Washington, D.C., to the Union as the fifty-first state.
In 2000, the courts rejected a series of arguÂments suggesting that the District’s inhabitants were, on various constitutional and policy grounds, entitled to voting representation in Congress without an amendment.Â See Adams v. ClintonÂ (2000). More recently, the courts have rejected efforts to invalidate a congresÂsionally imposed limit on the District’s ability to tax nonresident commuters.Â See Banner v. United StatesÂ (2004). In that case, the court noted that, “simply putâ€¦the District and its residents are the subject of Congress’ unique powers, exercised to address the unique circumstances of our nation’s capital.
Statehood is now the clear preference of DisÂtrict of Columbia voting-rights advocates, but the proposal has never excited much support in Congress and would, in any case, also require a constitutional amendment since an independÂent territory, subject to the ultimate authority of Congress, was a critical part of the Framers’ original design for an indestructible federal union of indestructible states.
R. Hewitt Pate, a senior visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation, wrote in August 1993:
The Supreme Court has construed this clause as giving Congress permanent and plenary power over the District. Congress can delegate various powers of home rule, as it has done in the past, but remains free to resume full control of the District at any time. What problem does this create for legislated D.C. statehood? Once a district becomes a state, statehood is permanent. It can never be revoked, as the Supreme Court recognized in shortly after the Civil War in Texas v. White. Making the District a full state, therefore, would be an abrogation of power that the Constitution explicitly assigns to Congress alone.Â
There are other constitutional roadblocks as well, the main point being that our founding document empowered Congress with exclusive jurisdiction over Washington, D.C. — jurisdiction that cannot be ceded to a state government (without amending the Constitution).
Rather than offering up pointless, unconstitutional legislation that isn’t going anywhere, it would be much better for our country if the new House Democratic majority would put an end to the clown show and get down to the business of governing.
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