Tuesday, April 20, 2010

State, Your Preference

Looks as if the DC vote-in-the-House bill has died, again. 

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?


  1. Statehood? With the consequence of two Democratic senators?
    Sounds like a guaranteed filibuster to me.

    Seems to me that the easier solution is to just give the non-federal government areas back to Maryland. No extra senators, and the population would simply be part of Maryland (my best guess would be 1 extra member). Also, the benefit of this would be that the whole problem gets taken care of by the redistricting process, and it's timed well for that.

  2. Yes, it's a filibuster...but they did have 60 Senators for a while. In my view, it would make sense for the Benator and the other moderates to vote for statehood -- sure, they'll take the hit (which I think would be very minor) on that vote, but in the long run it's worth it to have the two extra votes.

  3. Same thought I've had, Matt. Redefine the District of Columbia to be office buildings and monuments. Anyone who actually lives there would be a resident of Maryland.

    The concept of statehood for DC doesn't really sit well with me. The seat of the federal government shouldn't belong to any other state-level entity.

  4. And what's the likelihood they'd have gotten all the Dems on board, right down to Lieberman and Lincoln?

  5. The fact that DC statehood it would create two reliably Democratic senators ensures it would be controversial and would generate strong disapproval among Republicans.

    These aren't reasons not to do it, but they are reasons you need more than 60 votes to get it done.

    Small states are jealous of their disproportionate influence. Moderate Dems from small conservative states would be difficult to pick up.

  6. I don't know whether or not they could have passed it; I can see a logic for marginal Dems to support, and a logic for them to oppose. What I don't understand is why liberals didn't push for it.

  7. I'll write the same thing here I wrote on Yglesias's blog:
    You must realize that carving out a tiny Federal section is not constitutionally “safe.” That section would still get 3 electoral college votes due to the 23rd Amendment. As a practical matter, this would mean that the few individuals who live there (the incumbent President’s family? A handful of bums who sleep on the Mall? A few staffers or a caretaker?) would control 3 electoral votes.

    In other words, you’re going to need a Constitutional amendment anyway. You might as well limit the discussion to one of three options:
    1. DC statehood,
    2. Retrocession to Maryland, or
    3. status quo,

    and forget about this “clever” dodge

  8. One practical problem with granting statehood and doing the "carve-out" i(or retrocession to Maryland with a monumnets/White House federal enclave) is that the 22nd amendment grants 3 electoral votes to "the District containing the seat of government." No matter how you define it, such a district is going to inevitably include the White House, as well as a scattering of people who live down by the Mall. Unless you repeal the 22nd amendment, that small group of people (maybe the President alone!) will have 3 electoral votes. Hardly seems democratic.

  9. I'm a liberal from Massachusetts, and I find the idea of D.C. being granted statehood ridiculous and offensive. The Senate is a disaster, and there is no way I could approve of giving another absurdly small group of people outsized power in it... simply because they would be reliable Democratic votes. Congress should find a way to bribe Maryland to take D.C. back, and that should be the end of it. I think there is literally a zero percent chance you'd ever find 60 Senators willing to dilute their own power like that.

    1. See my comment at the bottom of this page. I just stumbled upon this old blog post by chance and decided to add my thoughts 2 years after the fact for the heck of it.

      I doubt you'll agree but who knows maybe 2 years of Tea Party obstructionism in the House has made you more of a hardened SOB :-)

  10. JW, equality for 600,000 DC residents is neither ridiculous or offensive...and don't be so sure that it would be Maryland that needs to be bribed, we Washingtonians have had our own identity for hundreds of years and have no desire to be put into Maryland.

  11. You might be surprised at the intensity of popular opposition to adding D.C. as a state based on numerological considerations. People have got used to having 50 states, and 100 Senators, and would feel violated by the distortion of symmetry. Covert racism would blend with this reflexive traditionalism.

  12. D.C. has a larger population than Wyoming.

    Do the (predominantly black) people living there deserve less of a voice in national government than the (predominantly white) people living in Wyoming?

    Standing for mass disenfranchisement because it benefits them is a hallmark of the GOP. Of course Republicans would howl ... but screw them.

    If I were Harry Reid this would have been the 1st thing I did, and Puerto Rico would have been 2nd if they approved statehood in a ballot referendum. And if any Democrat tried to defect I'd tell them, "go home, because your name won't ever be attached to any piece of legislation this chamber passes ever again ... oh by the way your primary opponent next cycle will have the most well-financed campaign you've ever seen"

    Even though I know giving people the vote is "right" in an abstract sense, I completely understand the intellectual side of the liberal establishment balking at this because it's a pure political power play and is offensive to "high-minded" notions of statesmanship.

    As an Ivy League philosophy-major graduate who moves in those intellectual circles but retains the "street" streak from my roots, let me break it to all of you in the same way I'd break it to my best friend who wrote a highly-acclaimed thesis in Constitutional law:

    "You're a pu$$y" ...
    ... this isn't some collegial ivory tower. Politics is war. You do it to them before they do it to you .... you can't feel the least bit remorseful about spilling your opponent's guts on the ground, and after you do, you need to be the kind that longs to rip the heart out of his chest as a souvenir.

    And it's a high-stakes war. It's not just, "winning is fun". There are policies we could pass with those votes that can't pass without them. You think guys like Grover Norquist should get to sabotage this country economically for decades by ensuring we never have enough money to pay for human rights like universal health care coverage?

    You think guys like Grover Norquist wouldn't get the GOP to do the same if the tables were turned? You're smoking something mighty strong if you say "No, I don't think he would..."

    If Obama lost the most recent election every single one of the people above who proclaim to be liberals & who balked at D.C. statehood would have their axes out looking for blood and would agree with me. Don't ever be satisfied with "not losing"


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