From District of Columbia to the state of Columbia
February 16, 2021
Back in June, the House of Representatives passed a bill to ratify Washington, D.C. as the 51st state. Although this bill won’t necessarily ensure statehood for the district, I do hope that it passes in the Senate.
Frankly speaking, Washington, D.C. should be a state by now. It has been nearly 62 years since the United States granted new statehood, the longest it’s been since the very beginning of this process. And although 50 is a perfect number, we cannot base this consequential a decision on the small inconvenience of a simple flag change. Due to its lack of statehood, Washington, D.C. has been overlooked for far too long. This is apparent in the utter mishandling of the district by the government – a problem which has only become amplified in recent years. Now is the time to bring an end to this neglect.
For starters, residents of Washington, D.C. are taxed much too heavily. They pay complete federal taxes, and due to the budget restrictions enacted by the federal government, local taxes are extremely high as well, resulting in the highest per capita tax rate in the United States. Washington license plates read “Taxation Without Representation” because that is exactly what its residents get. Yes, thanks to the 23rd Amendment, each of the 700,000 plus residents are able to vote today, but what is the point of a local vote without representation in Congress? The federal government can simply annul local laws.
Then there is the problem of law enforcement. As witnessed by the events of Jan. 6, there is immense pressure on the law enforcement bodies in the District of Columbia. They have to protect not only the Capitol but also all other government buildings in the area. This is an unfairly large burden to place on the resources of a district which does not even have representation in Congress. The January Capitol riots injured 56 of Washington, D.C.’s city police officers. In any other state, governors can simply call on the National Guard for help in such a scenario. But in Washington, D.C., the mayor has to be granted permission from the Pentagon. Not only is this unfair, but it is incredibly dangerous. The insurrection would have been completely different if Mayor Muriel Bowser had had the ability to call in troops, instead of relying on the judgment of Donald Trump.
Historically speaking, the United States has always granted statehood two states at a time, per the Missouri Compromise. Some may cite this as a reason to not grant statehood to Washington, D.C. all by itself. That would be an outdated excuse. The real reason many are opposed to granting Washington, D.C. statehood is that the population of Washington, D.C. leans significantly left. If the District of Columbia were to become a state, this would add two more votes in the Senate and one more vote to the House of Representatives. The extreme likelihood of all three of these positions being filled by democrats makes granting Washington, D.C. statehood unfavorable to the Grand Old Party.
According to the United States Constitution, a district “not exceeding ten miles square” is needed to conduct the business of the federal government. Both Virginia and Maryland accordingly gave up almost exactly this amount of land for Washington, D.C., with the intent of fulfilling every inch of this constitutional maximum. With the creation of a new state, this maxim need not be violated. The federal district will still be in place, though exceptionally small in area. The remaining area can then constitute the state of Columbia.
Although Congress does not have the outright ability to create a state, a vote in favor of statehood in the Senate will provide a path for Maryland and Virginia to give up some of their land for the creation of such a state. With a Democratic House of Representatives, Senate and president, this goal is more achievable today than it has long been.
Jack Howard can be reached at [email protected]