Skip to main content

This Election Could Decide if DC Becomes the 51st State: Here's Why That's Such a Big Deal


Share This article

CHECK OUT the CBN PETITION to Stop Unconstitutional Statehood 

WASHINGTON – There's a move afoot to make the District of Columbia the 51st state. Supporters say they're working to secure voting rights for residents. Critics say it's all about empowering a radical liberal agenda while ensuring Democrats control Congress.

One thing is certain, each year tens of millions of tourists flock to the capital city each year from every corner of the globe. It's a one-of-a-kind place designed specifically and carefully laid out in the constitution.

Framers' Intent

"The framers wanted to have the seat of the new federal government independent of any given state," says Roger Pilon with the Cato who has twice testified before Congress about the implications of granting statehood to DC.

"They didn't want any given state to be disproportionately influential on the new government," Pilon continued.

Neutral ground to conduct the people's business and for people living in the district, Congress would serve as their local government.

'Taxation without Representation'

Today the push from many of the 700,000 residents can be seen in the streets through the Revolutionary War slogan, "Taxation without representation" that's displayed on district license plates.

Since they pay federal taxes residents want the right to elect their own representatives to Congress.

Latest Proposal

Making the district a state has been debated for decades, and over the summer the Democratic-controlled House approved it. Every Republican and one Democrat voted no. 

The bill takes the ten square miles of Washington, DC as specified in the Constitution and reduces it to an enclave around the National Mall that would remain under Congressional control. 

What's left would become the 51st state called the "Washington Douglass Commonwealth" – a nod to both George Washington and Frederick Douglass.

The measure is dead on arrival, at least for now, given the Republican-controlled Senate. President Trump also opposes it. But Senate control and the White House are both up for grabs on Election Day, November 3.

Playing to the Base

Since the majority of DC residents are black, Speaker Pelosi and Democratic leaders saw this year as an opportune time to champion the issue.

"You might be wondering why DC is not yet a state and it's actually a pretty easy one to answer. It is racism," says activist Meagan Hatcher-Mays with The Indivisible Project while appearing in a video supporting statehood.

However, opponents say the push for statehood is simply about political gain.

"This proposal is nothing plainly nothing but a Democratic power grab," said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) speaking on the Senate floor.

Click Here Get the App with Special Alerts on Breaking News and Top Stories

If representation is what residents what, they could push to return parts of the district to Maryland, which ceded land to create the district in the first place, but here's the rub – that solution wouldn't allow for the addition of two new US senators.

Two New US Senators

"Our cause for statehood is certainly about making sure we have two voting senators to speak up for us and making sure that our congresswoman has a vote," said Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser at a press conference about statehood.

And since DC has voted for the Democratic nominee by 80 percent or more in the last five presidential contests, statehood would virtually guarantee two new Democratic senators.

"This is not about enfranchising people, this is about expanding a Senate map to accommodate the most radical agenda that I've ever seen since I've been up here – getting more radical by the day," said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in opposition to the legislation.

"There's nothing these people won't do to change the face of the country and we're tired of it. We're gonna fight back," Graham continued.

51st State Control over Federal Government

Under the House plan, the federal government would become dependent on the 51st state for essentials like utilities, snow removal, and fire services.

Pilon says recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations reveal how a DC state could possibly wreak havoc. 
"One can imagine scenarios that would be quite uncomfortable for example if you had the District of Columbia with its own state government entirely Democratic and you had a president who was Republican in the White House you could imagine the temptation to, for example, withhold services that would be essential for the federal government. Now, potentially you could have the federal government assert its authority over this state but it would raise very ticklish issues that don't have to be raised now because the Congress has exclusive jurisdiction over the District of Columbia," Pilon explained.

CHECK OUT the CBN PETITION to Stop Unconstitutional Statehood 

If the Senate and White House flip to Democratic control, the measure will likely pass since Joe Biden supports it.

Pilon argues it would then wind up in court because Congress simply doesn't have the authority to make DC a state through legislation.

"Every Justice Department that has looked at this issue from the time when Robert Kennedy was an attorney general in 1963 has said that Congress has no power to do what is contemplated in this bill," Pilon explains.

That means a new amendment to the Constitution would be needed which requires ratification by three-fourths of the states. 

The last attempt came in 1978 when Democrats led Congress and Jimmy Carter occupied the White House. They passed a constitutional amendment aimed at giving DC voting representation in Congress.

By the end of the seven-year deadline, only 16 states approved ratification. Fast-forward to 2020 and the most recent polling shows 64 percent of Americans still oppose adding DC as a state.

Share This article

About The Author


Jennifer Wishon es la corresponsal de CBN News y su trabajo se basa en el Buró ubicado en Washington D.C. Jennifer Wishon es la corresponsal de CBN News en la Casa Blanca y su trabajo se basa en el Buró ubicado en Washington D.C. Jennifer se unió a CBN en Diciembre de 2008 y fue asignada a la Casa Blanca en Enero de 2011. Antes de tomar el ritmo de la Casa Blanca, Jennifer cubrió el Capitolio y otras noticias nacionales, desde la economía hasta el derrame del Golfo de México en 2010. Antes de unirse a CBN News Jennifer trabajó como corresponsal en el Capitolio para WDBJ7, la afiliada de CBS en