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April 16, 2016


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There was a push to do it last time in 2009 with regards to voting representatives, but it failed. It seemed too cute to push for a half-a-loaf solution, voting representatives but not Senators and statehood. And the whole process was poorly timed with Heller and the Democratic majority depending too heavily on NRA-friendly members. Next time around I suspect the timing will be much better and the party won't be afraid of organizations like the NRA. I just hope Puerto Rico has settled down to the point where statehood for the island is also on the table.

1) the odds of the Dems taking the House continue to look v. slim.

2) Despite the obvious advantages to the party, DC statehood does not enjoy broad support among Democrats. Checking, I see that the last two bills on DC statehood (2014 and 2015) got 20 Senators and 112 Reps -- pretty lukewarm.

Why? Several reasons.

a -- the race thing. Perhaps less of an issue than it was a generation ago, but still not not an issue.

b -- politically, DC Senators would be well on the left side of any Democratic caucus. There are some Democrats who aren't comfortable with that.

c -- historically, a significant minority of Congressmen have enjoyed being able to mess with the District. It is, after all, where they spend most of their time. Interference from Republicans has tended to be more malicious and so to attract more attention, but it's really a bipartisan thing. Statehood for DC would mean giving up this minor but well-beloved perk.

d -- DC would be the only state with no rural areas whatsoever. They would predictably vote for urban interests over rural ones. If you're a congressman from a predominantly rural state or district, you may already feel outvoted. Why make it worse?

3) Finally, there are legitimate good-government arguments against DC statehood. I don't think they balance against the importance of giving a vote to 600,000 US citizens, but that doesn't mean they're completely stupid, either.

Doug M.

What are the goo-goo reasons against statehood? I can imagine ones that made sense 20 years ago, but living here that's much harder to understand now.

Doug's right. Plus the aspects of it that are straight power grab/informal norm breaking that make just enough members hesitant to vote for the bill.

Schumer, fan of No Labels entity Mark Warner, probably doesn't support DC Statehood; I think the Democratic response to informal norm/rulebreaking is still a generation off, and a reach even then, since the party is so heterodox ideologically.

Goo-goo reasons:

1) The federal government is now dependent on a single, particular state; this state gains an undue and unfair influence over the federal government. This was Madison's main reason for having a federal district to begin with. (Similar reasoning explains why state capitols are almost never in the state's largest city.)

2) New state is dominated by the federal government, as majority of DC residents with jobs are either federal employees or federal contractors. Effectively, this is giving the federal government two Senate seats.

Counterargument: this is not really different from having West Virginia senators who are representing the coal industry, Iowa senators who are representing corn and pigs, etc.

Counterresponse: there's a qualitative difference between the federal government and any particular private industry.

Doug M.

Goo-goo reason 3:

DC/Federal government already over represented by the MD-VA Senators, so this would be in excess.


With regards to goo-goo reason #1, would statehood for DC minus the National Capital Service Area (as a rump federal DC - as seen in these proposals: http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/24249/two-maps-that-explain-what-dc-might-look-like-as-a-state/ , https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/dc-statehood-bill-unlikely-to-advance-beyond-senate-panels-hearing/2014/09/14/98d5fbec-3939-11e4-bdfb-de4104544a37_story.html) remove the undue and unfair influence over the federal government?

If not then perhaps the best way to square the circle is to simply give the District a voting representative in the House but no Senators (as it is not a state) plus the 3 electoral votes for President.

The Virginia portion of DC was already ceded back to Virginia in 1846.

Why not cede the inhabited parts of DC back to Maryland and retain the federal property as the rump District?

That solves the democracy problem, it also avoids any significant partisan impacts (save that Maryland would never have a Republican Governor again).

I'm still in the weird position of agreeing that the Democrats won't make DC a state but thinking that none of the reasons given make sense considering the prize to be taken.

Although I have a goo-goo story that points against statehood. Although it's anecdotal and unfair. :-)

McDevite: why the probity on the Democratic side? I'm not quite tracking on how heterogeneity gets you to a reluctance to press partisan advantage when you can.

Perhaps there's reluctance to have a state that is as far out of the mainstream as DC would be. It votes ~90% Democrat and potentially would have Chicago (best case) to Detroit (worst case) levels of dysfunction and corruption. The Democratic Governor freed of federal oversight would be under pressure to govern in a way that could problematic for the Democratic brand in the rest of the country?

If I'm a Democrat politician in West Virginia, Kentucky or Alabama do I really want to have Democrats pushing the envelope in the District much farther than Democrats do in the current blue states?

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