It is. Tom Carper (D-Del.) And other Democratic Senators today introduce DC statehood bill, a proposal that has met with fierce public opposition from ongoing polls. Indeed, the bill was one of the reasons why members and supporters called for the filibuster rule to be killed in order to enforce the change of status by a mere majority. If successful, the Democrats would have two more senators in a city-state that is expected to remain reliably blue. I have testified repeatedly on this subject. There are strong arguments for changing the status of the district and statehood is a viable option. It would be clearly constitutional in contrast to previous proposals. The question is, is it the best option for the country? About 20 years ago I proposed a “modified retrocession plan” that would be an alternative if Congress wanted full voting rights for the district’s citizens.
The proposal aims to create the first city-state in our history with 700,000 inhabitants.
However, half the country is against the idea. A new Harris / Hill poll shows that fifty-two percent of those polled were in favor of statehood, while 48 percent were against. This is fierce opposition to such a change in statehood.
Biden has just presented yet another proposal with stiff public opposition: a commission that would allow the trial or other structural changes to the court to dull the conservative majority.
I wrote a long academic paper on the status of the District of Columbia and at previous hearings I testified that representatives of the district’s residents are allowed to vote. See Jonathan Turley, Too Clever By Half: The District of Columbia Partial Representation in the House of Representatives, 76 George Washington University Law Review 305-374 (2008). I have testified repeatedly on such proposals in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The DC statehood debate is a complex issue with historical, constitutional, and legal dimensions. It is also a problem with important and unresolved racial issues in a black majority city with no direct representation in Congress. I have previously expressed my view that such a lack of representation for the district in our country is unacceptable and untenable.
In total, I have testified on this issue in Congress five times in the House and Senate, particularly on efforts to simply give the district a voice in the House. I encouraged Congress to avoid such manifestly unconstitutional measures of voting as a non-governmental entity and instead focus on voting on statehood or retrocession. That is why I offered a “modified retrocession plan”, which was also discussed in a scientific paper. Under my proposal, the District of Columbia would remain the mall and core federal buildings (as is the case in this legislation), but the rest of the district would return to Maryland (as would the other half of the original district in Virginia). That way, residents would get full representation while taking advantage of various educational and other educational opportunities in Maryland. This reduction in the federal enclave was included in some statehood proposals. I believed that such a retrocession would provide the fastest course not only for full representation, but also for improved social and educational programs for the district residents. I presented a step-by-step retrocession plan that started with immediate and full representation. This could be done by voting in Congress.
People in good faith cannot endorse such proposals and the current legislation is clearly a constitutional approach to reaching a final solution to the lack of representation in Congress. Indeed, it is important to hear from those who believe statehood is an important step in dealing with historical racial inequalities and discrimination in our nation. A modified retrocession may not be enough to solve such problems for many in our community.