Even the GOP’s Three Best Arguments Against D.C. Statehood Don't Stand Up to Scrutiny

Historians in the News

Opponents of D.C. statehood have at most three arguments that deserve any respect. They involve the Founders’ intent, retrocession to Maryland and the 23rd Amendment.

But none stands up to scrutiny, as I’ll discuss below. It’s hard to accept that Republicans and other critics believe that these arcane constitutional claims count for more than respecting the nation’s founding rallying cry of “no taxation without representation.”

Instead, as GOP leaders are increasingly willing to admit publicly, they care primarily about preventing the deep-blue District from sending two additional Democrats to the Senate and one to the House.


The Republicans have brought in many states for their own partisan purposes. In one of the best examples, the GOP successfully lobbied to split the Dakota Territory into two states in 1889 so the GOP would pick up four new senators instead of two.

“Western states that were brought in in the late 19th century — Colorado, the Dakotas — were not only brought in on a party-line vote, but they were brought in specifically with the purpose to pad Republican majorities,” said George Derek Musgrove, a history professor at UMBC and co-author of “Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital.”

That said, the Republicans did raise some arguments that merit attention, even if they ultimately come up short:

Founders’ intent. It’s fair to ask whether the Constitution’s authors foresaw shrinking the federal district to a two-mile square enclave comprising the White House, Capitol, Supreme Court and the Mall.

That’s what H.R. 51 would do, to honor the Constitution’s requirement that the seat of government would be in a federal district controlled by Congress and “not exceeding ten miles square.” The rest of the current District would become the 51st state.

Critics say the risk is that the shrunken district would be too small to carry out its intended functions, especially providing security for Congress.

That argument lost a lot of punch, however, with the police response to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol by rioters intent on blocking the election of President Biden. The Capitol Police called in reinforcements not just from the District, but also from Maryland and Virginia.

If the Capitol Police can call in reinforcements from Maryland and Virginia, then why not from a newly created neighboring state as well?

The bottom line is that the Founders put nothing in the Constitution’s text to prohibit the shrinkage of the federal district.

Read entire article at Washington Post

comments powered by Disqus