Denying DC statehood continues federal overreach

In a recent op-ed published by the Washington Post, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) warns us of the dangers of federal overreach. According to Cruz, terrible things could happen if we’re not careful: foreign courts could override parents’ decision-making regarding the education of their children with special needs; an international tribunal in Hamburg could seize control of U.S. businesses; and the United Nations might just come to your house and take away your guns.

Ignoring that Cruz’s protagonist in the article is a person who poured caustic chemicals on pregnant woman – an unsympathetic case study for federal overreach, but not necessarily an invalid one – Cruz’s calls for limited government ring hollow. While decrying the injustice of hypothetical scenarios that don’t even exist, Cruz continues to – in actuality –perpetuate an egregious form of federal overreach that he refuses to stand up against.

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For the first time in 20 years, there is a bill before the House and Senate that would restore basic civil rights to the citizens of the District of Columbia – by making it a state. The bill would effectively shrink the size of the constitutionally mandated federal district - it’s been done before (see: Northern Virginia) – and bring the parts of D.C. where people live and pay taxes into the United States as the 51st state (or the 52nd, depending on what happens with Puerto Rico).

D.C. statehood activists, almost all volunteers, have been meeting with Senate and Congressional offices over the last several months to engage them to support D.C. statehood. We’ve met with some success. Currently, there are 11 Senate co-sponsors and 59 House co-sponsors behind the bill. There is a possibility that hearings on the bill will be held this fall.

One of the Congressional offices my volunteer group, Neighbors United for D.C. Statehood, has met with: Ted Cruz’s. His staffer heard us out. But has Cruz agreed to sponsor the bill? No. Has he committed to vote for the bill? No. In effect, Cruz refuses to support the end to more than 200 years of federal overreach in the shadows of the very building where he works.

Allowing D.C. to become a state is a question of basic fairness. The 630,000-plus people who live here – more than in the states of Vermont or Wyoming – pay taxes like other citizens, fight in the armed forces, serve on juries, and perform all the basic civic obligations expected of U.S. citizens residing in other states. What sets us apart is that we can’t vote for Congressional representation, meaning that we must abide by laws we have no say in.

Cruz could help fix D.C.’s colonial relationship to the federal government. If he believed in the evils of federal overreach, that is. But Cruz is apparently fine with tyranny when it suits him – the federal government tells D.C. even how to spend its local tax dollars. But then, it takes more courage to stand up to an actual encroachment on basic American liberties than to rail against the imaginary threat of U.N. inspectors coming for our assault rifles.

Shipps is a fellow with the Truman National Security Project, and an activist with Neighbors United for DC Statehood, a volunteer group that lobbies Congress for statehood for the District of Columbia.