DC Statehood

An excellent query from Jonathan Bernstein:

I still don’t understand why the Democrats didn’t just push through DC statehood while they had the chance, during the brief period in which they had 60 votes in the Senate. Even more so, I really can’t understand why no one within the Democratic coalition even bothered trying to push for DC statehood during this Congress (the Constitutionally-safe option would be the carve-out, leaving a small Federal District with the monuments and some government buildings, including the White House and Capitol, along with a small state that contained all the residences; it’s a lot safer, Constitutionally, than the House-vote bill). Hey, Chris Bowers and other electorally smart lefties: why didn’t you fight for statehood?

Not only would the creation of a small Federal District with statehood for the rest of DC be constitutionally safer, but the benefit to progressive politics of opening the door to two Senators who’d be ideologically similar to Eleanor Holmes Norton would be enormous. Once upon a time I even made this map highlighting what the small Federal District carved out of the State of Columbia might look like:

That contains the Capitol, the White House, the Smithsonian museums, most of the key monuments, and many of the federal agency buildings. Some other federal agencies would be left in the State of Columbia but we already have federal agencies headquartered in Virginia and Maryland so I’m not sure what the problem with that would be.


To be sure, this is a bit of a pie in the sky idea, but it’s not totally crazy to imagine that at some future point there will again be the 60 Democratic Senators you’d need to get it done, or else that filibustering will be abolished and you’ll only need 50. The principled argument for statehood is pretty clear and compelling and this is a step that would do an enormous amount to make all the other key priorities of the environmental movement, the labor movement, civil rights and women’s rights groups, etc. more likely to be achieved.