The Little District that Wanted to Be a City-State

Well, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and her cohorts are at it once again, trying to rewrite our Constitution by sending a bill to the floor of the House, which if passed would grant the District of Columbia its first full-fledged seat. The entire House of Representatives will vote next week on this legislation and the Democratic leadership vows to use its majority status to ensure that it passes. There is no doubt in my mind that they will succeed in passing the legislation in the House, only for it to be sent for a full Senate vote, where it will fall flat on its face. The Democrats' victory in the House will be symbolic at best. Many legal scholars as well as members of the Senate vehemently oppose the bill on constitutional grounds.

The Constitution clearly states that House members shall come from states. When last I checked, D.C. was still a “Federal Enclave” and not a “State.” The justification against statehood for the District is explained by our nation's fourth president, James Madison, in the Federalist Papers, a group of essays written in the late 1700s that immediately became the single most important interpretation of the Constitution, and remains so among contemporary jurists and scholars. In Federalist No. 43, it is noted that the federal government needs to ensure a level of stability in order to perform those duties that could not be guaranteed by reliance upon any state. The necessity of this provision is borne out by the riots outside the Pennsylvania hall that Congress met in before the District was established. The District was established for the very purpose of ensuring that Congress could not be held hostage by the impositions of any state ever again. Any organization such as Congress has a reasonable expectation that it controls the rules governing how it conducts its business.

The Democratic leadership’s quest for victories is becoming more outrageous as the days grow longer. When will this 110th Congress begin to undertake the issues that will move this nation forward, giving Americans the real victories they were promised in voting for a change of leadership in the recent midterm elections? We’re all still waiting.