The Washington DC Admission Act

I’ve just sent the following letter to my Congressional Representatives, Senator Chuck Schumer, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and Representative Yvette Clarke:

The Washington, DC Admission Act (https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/51/text), on its surface, appears to be written to rectify a seeming inequity: the fact that the residents of the capital district do not have elected voting representatives in the House of Representatives or Senate. Thus, the DC license tag slogan “no taxation without representation.”

I agree with the concept that the national capital is not part of, and thus not subject to, any particular state. As we’ve seen recently, a state governor could, if in control of the territory of the national capital, declare the city closed, and prevent federal officials from reaching the place of government. That was, and remains, the best reason for an independent capital district.

I’ve often wondered if we need to grant DC statehood to rectify that problem. My original thinking was that no one is forced to live there, and that no one moves to the district without knowing about its special status. However, I’ve recognized that this argument is not very convincing to most people.

Now we hear that the House has adopted H.R. 51, The Washington, D.C. Admission Act, which will sever most of the territory of the federal district from that district, and make of it a new state. This may be a—slightly—more palatable solution, but the gyrations the act goes through, and the partisan bickering it will engender, make me question if the proposers truly want the residents to have Congressional representation, or if their true goal is to modify the make-up of the Senate by adding two seats from a new state which will almost certainly be controlled by the Democratic party. Wouldn’t it be far easier, far less disruptive, for the federal government to simply cede that territory back to the state of Maryland?

Such a cession would immediately give the residents the elective representation they seek, while at the same time not causing disruption to the Senate. There would be no need to escalate the power of the city government to that of a state, the mayor would not suddenly become a governor

A transfer of territory back to Maryland (from which the territory was originally given) has a certain elegance to it. But I would take it one step further.

The act very clearly, in minute detail, describes the boundaries of what would be the new national capital (generally, the buildings and monuments around the Mall), which has only one residence: the White House. I would add to that tiny bit of property by asking Virginia to cede back some territory (originally, the national capital was a 10 mile square of territory from Maryland and Virginia); specifically, Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon. These sites clearly fall under the rubric of “monuments and office buildings,” as detailed in section 112(a) of the act.

While there is no legal block against accepting a city-state into the union, the proposed state of Douglass (which would be called the Douglass Commonwealth, in order to preserve the postal code), would be a scant 68 square miles, 5% of the size of our current smallest state (Rhode Island, 1,200 square miles). Our current concept of states derives from the original colonies, which were, in effect, mini-countries. And even today, each of the 50 states has the geographic ability to serve as a country: there is land for food growing and production, a variety of industries, places urban and rural for people to live and work, and so on. Our newest state, DC, would lack nearly all of those abilities. It would indeed be nothing more than a city with pretensions of statehood.

In summation, maybe it is time to remove the non-governmental pieces of the national capital from the national capital, but let’s not state-ify those pieces. Instead, shift them into the state from whence they came; make those pieces once again a part of Maryland.

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