Attorney General Chris Carr is co-leading coalition of 22 attorneys general in sending a letter to President Biden and congressional leadership opposing bills to make the District of Columbia a state.
“This coalition has one simple goal – to uphold the U.S. Constitution,” said Attorney General Chris Carr. “The Washington, D.C. Admission Act is unconstitutional, represents unsound policy, and, if allowed to take effect, would create a super-state with unrivaled power. If the Biden Administration and Congress attempt to enact this legislation and provide statehood to the District of Columbia, our coalition will stop it.”
In their letter, the attorneys general point out that, while the Constitution does allow Congress to admit new states, it cannot be done through ordinary legislation. “Rather, the only lawful way to provide statehood to the District of Columbia is to amend the Constitution,” they write.
The District of Columbia’s creation traces to Article 1, section 8, clause 17 of the Constitution, which says Congress shall have the power:
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of Government of the United States…
While the Constitution gives Congress the authority to govern the District by exercising exclusive legislation over it, it does not provide authority for Congress to unilaterally change the size of the District through simple legislation, much less create an entirely new state. In fact, if it were that easy, there would have been no need for the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution, which provides for the electors of President and Vice-President to “the District constituting the seat of Government of the United States.”
However, constitutionality is not the only issue. The Founding Fathers considered making the seat of government a separate state and rejected the idea. James Madison noted in Federalist 43 the “indispensable necessity of complete authority at the seat of government.”
Supporters of making the District of Columbia a state argue that the residents of D.C. are somehow disenfranchised and are not adequately supported by Congress. But the attorneys general explain that making D.C. a state would actually give those residents more power than the residents of other states.
“Its residents—who all willingly live in the District with an understanding of its unique nature, including Congressional staff, leaders of federal departments and agencies, members of the media, lawyers, and lobbyists—have more power, influence, and control over Congress and the nation than anyone else. The notion that Members of Congress, many of whom spend substantially more time in the District than at home, do not represent adequately the interests of residents of the district is absurd,” the attorneys general write.
The proposed legislation would also change the name of the District of Columbia to the “State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth” and would give residents special voter registration and voting privileges.
Attorney General Chris Carr co-led the letter with Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas. Also joining the letter are the states of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia.