FEDERAL LEGISLATION: Senate and House Democrats Push for DC Statehood in S. 51 and H.R. 51 bills -- “The Washington, D.C. Admission Act”

The twenty-third (23) amendment to the Constitution specifically provides, as follows:

“Section 1—The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct:

A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the States, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a State; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.

Section 2—The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

The twenty-third (23) amendment to the Constitution specifically provides, as follows:

“Section 1—The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct:

A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the States, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a State; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.

Section 2—The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

The twenty-third amendment extends the right to vote in presidential elections to residents residing in the District of Columbia. The District has representation in Congress—Eleanor Holmes Norton—a non-voting delegate and it has three electoral votes, the same as Wyoming, the least populous State. Yet, to hear Democrats tell it, residents of the District have been “disenfranchised for the last 200 years and denied democracy.”  (Mayor Muriel Bowser).

Pretty soon, the House will begin hearings on H.R. 51, the “Washington, D.C. Admission Act”.  The bill provides, among other things: 

  1. The District of Columbia will become the “State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth” and will be imbued with all the rights, privileges, and obligations of every other state.
  2. All lands, buildings, and property owned or controlled by the District of Columbia, except for Federal and military lands, monuments, the White House, the Capitol Building, the United States Supreme Court building, and the Federal executive, legislative and judicial office buildings located adjacent to the Mall and the Capitol building, will automatically become the lands, buildings, and property owned or controlled by the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.  District territory excluded from the commonwealth shall be known as the “Capital” and shall be the seat of the federal government. Metes and bounds are specified within the bills.
  3. The Mayor of the District of Columbia will issue a proclamation for the first elections for 2 Senators and one Representative in Congress from this State.
  4. All of the other 50 States will permit “absent capital voter” absentee registration (or waive registration all together) and allow mail-in voting back in their home state, which could be the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth. The curiosity here is that in defining the term “absent capital voter” it includes this language: “…a person who resides in the Capital and is qualified to vote in the State (or who would be qualified to vote in the State but for residing in the Capital) ….”  Exactly who would fit this description?  The President and family at the White House? The Vice President and family at the Naval Observatory?  Military members living on military installations, such as the Marine Corps barracks, the Navy Yard, and Bolling Air Force Base?
  5. It requires the establishment of a “Capital National Guard.”
  6. It waives Senate Rule XXII.  In other words, it eliminates the filibuster, ostensibly, for this one action.  But once that door is open….!
  7. 51 is still in a Senate committee since its late January 2021 introduction.  Senator Tom Carper (D-Del) is leading the effort there.  He believes that granting DC statehood is a matter of fairness and equity.”  Yes.., but what about Puerto Rico, you might ask? 

Both bills appear to be unconstitutional.  Why?  For one thing, both bills change the location of the “seat of Government” from the “District” to the “Capitol” and the bills declare Washington, DC to be a State.  In doing so, it directly contradicts the language of the 23rd Amendment.  It may be that such changes cannot be had by simple legislation.  It may require something more.  It may require another amendment to the Constitution. 

Depending upon who you ask, there are either two or four methods for changing the Constitution, including repealing a previously ratified amendment:

  1. Both houses propose an amendment with a two-thirds vote in each chamber (290 in the House and 67 in the Senate), and three-fourths (38) of the state legislatures approve.
  2. Both houses propose an amendment with a two-thirds vote in each chamber, and three-fourths of the states approve the amendment via ratifying conventions.
  3. Two-thirds (34) of the state legislatures call on Congress to hold a constitutional convention, and three-fourths of the state legislatures approve the amendment.
  4. Two-thirds of the state legislatures call on Congress to hold a constitutional convention, and three-fourths of the states approve the amendment via ratifying conventions.

So, is the Democrat House and Senate attempting to do an end run around the Constitution to get statehood for the District of Columbia?  Seems so, since neither chamber has the requisite number of votes to go the amendment route! 

On the other hand, it is doubtful S. 51 will advance in the Senate even if there is passage of H.R. 51 in the House.  Let’s hope the Senate Republicans hold together and filibuster.  Most Republicans see this as a power grab designed to tip the balance in the Senate in favor of Democrats by adding two senators from a liberal stronghold!  

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  • Amanda Mercer
    published this page in Blog 2021-03-18 08:56:03 -0400