In April, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 51, a bill to make the District of Columbia a state. Unfortunately, this bill passed the House on a party-line vote of 216-208 and has now been sent to the Senate, where I can only hope the bill will be met with enough opposition to fail.
I have many concerns with the recent push to make Washington, D.C. the 51st U.S. state. The District of Columbia was expressly created as neutral ground for states to enjoy equal representation in federal government. At its core, H.R. 51 ignores essential constitutional limitations placed by the Framers to guarantee that all states, large and small, have fair footing on the federal level.
Proponents of the legislation argue that residents of Washington, D.C. lack federal representation. However, D.C. residents already have the right to vote in federal and District elections and
have adequate representation in the federal government, with three electoral votes and one delegate in the House of Representatives—more representation than any other city in America. The Framers rightly believed that no one state should have control of the seat of the federal government, and H.R. 51 would unjustly circumvent this intent at the expense of every other state in the Union.
Whatever the goal of H.R. 51, it is clearly not a serious attempt at legislating but rather another partisan messaging bill aimed at Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s base. The reality is that even if H.R. 51 were to become law, admitting D.C. as the 51st state requires much more than a vote in Congress. Achieving statehood would also require the repeal of the 23rd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which specifically prohibits Washington, D.C. from becoming a state. Additionally, a new amendment allowing states to be created from federal districts would also have to be passed.
Ultimately, this legislation would provide a single new state with an unjust federal advantage. D.C. statehood would disrupt the careful balance of power envisioned by the Framers, something I, a Representative from the state of Idaho, cannot in good conscience support. Instead of spending precious legislative time voting on partisan bills that will likely never become law, it is my hope that House Democrats will work with Republicans to address our nation’s failing infrastructure, create jobs, and complete our annual appropriations work on time.
Republican Rep. Mike Simpson represents Idaho’s 2nd District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He lives in Blackfoot.