Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday she believes the Democrat-led Congress will pass a bill granting statehood to the District, but others maintain such a move is clearly unconstitutional.
In an interview with Just the News, Bowser appeared confident that if the statehood bill passes, President Joe Biden would sign it as he has expressed an interest in doing so in the past.
“The nation’s capital, the federal enclave, continues to exist as the nation’s capital and everything outside of those new boundaries becomes the 51st state,” said Bowser. “Our congresswoman – we had our first successful vote on statehood in the House of Representatives last year. She reintroduced the bill. She has a record number of sponsors.”
Eleanor Norton Holmes has served as D.C.’s non-voting delegate to Congress, though her website lists her as a “congresswoman.”
“It is going to be reintroduced in the Senate in a couple of weeks, and we expect to have a favorable vote in the Senate as well, and then it goes to the president of the United States. We have made a big focus to President Biden to support D.C. statehood and make it part of his 100-day agenda,” she added.
“Just like you, we pay the same federal taxes as every citizen of the fifty states of the U.S. except we do not have two senators. We literally have no one to speak for us in the Senate. We have to have full representation,” Bowser continued.
In 2016, 86 percent of voters in the district supported statehood. A Gallup survey in 2019, however, found that just 29 percent of Americans supported D.C. statehood compared to 64 percent who are opposed.
Republicans have warned that if D.C. becomes a state, both senators would permanently be Democrats, making it that much more difficult to win back control of the chamber.
In her interview, Bowser said that she and district officials have been studying the issue of statehood for the six years she has been mayor, and that they were following the method Tennessee used to become a state. She also said that the federal district called for by the Constitution to become the seat of the U.S. government would not be part of the new state.
But other constitutional experts disagree that D.C. can become a state. They cite Article I, Sect. 8, which specifically calls for a federal enclave to the nation’s capital which can’t be part of a state or treated like one, but instead is under Congress’ exclusive authority.
They further argue that the only way for the district to become a state is by amending the Constitution as happened in 1961 when district residents were granted the right to vote in presidential elections and participate in the Electoral College via the 23rd Amendment.
That said, legislation passed by the Democrat-controlled House last year, H.R. 51, “purports to shrink the District of Columbia to just the few blocks along the National Mall containing the various federal government buildings, such as the White House, the Capitol, the Supreme Court, plus the ‘principal federal monuments,’” Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote in June.
“The rest of the city would be rechristened ‘Washington, Douglass Commonwealth,’ and admitted as the 51st state,” he added.
He went on to argue that Congress does not have the authority to “change the status of the capital district simply by redefining it.”
“[T]he only way to modify that standing is to modify the Constitution. The plain meaning of Article I is that ‘the Seat of Government of the United States’ comprises all the land supplied for that purpose,” he added.
Others have cited previous, recent federal court cases, including a ruling in 2000 by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals which found that legislative initiatives to allow for voting representation in Congress were unconstitutional.
“The three judge panel made it clear that the Constitution would need to be amended in order for such changes to take place within the law,” The Daily Signal noted in 2015.
The outlet also noted that Congress recognized that in 1977 when lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment to grant the District representation. However, it failed to garner approval from enough states to be ratified.
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