Yesterday, the Senate voted (procedurally) to send the DC Voting Rights Act to the full Senate for debate and a vote. The bill provides the District of Columbia with the opportunity to elect 2 voting representatives to the House of Representatives; currently the territory elects one non-voting delegate at-large to the House.
I fully support this, and I don’t really understand why D.C has been without real representation for so long. The District’s 592,000 citizens have payed federal income taxes all along (since the 16th Amendment, at least), elect a city government (even though Congress, ultimately, although now more ceremoniously, as final say), and vote for the President of the United States (since the 23rd Amendment was ratified in 1961). It’s about time that people who live in D.C. get some real representation for their taxation. The city is as old as the nation, and it’s citizens certainly feel as if they are Americans first and foremost.
But why not go farther, and make D.C. a state? The Constitution provides for a “District…to…become the seat of the government of the United States,” that is part of no state; remember that at the time of the founding of the nation, states’ rights was a big deal, and the idea of different states sending their musket-toting militias at each other didn’t seem as weird as it does now. James Madison understood this threat and wanted to make sure that no state could interfere with the federal
government’s workings, or make another state jealous by showing off how tight it was with the feds. The lack of representation of the District didn’t really seem to be considered then, and certainly was not any main consideration in its status. Basically, the idea of keeping the citizens of D.C. stateless is completely anachronistic at this point in time, and correcting this oddity will in no way endanger the United States or its fundamental republican philosophies. Indeed, full representation, including 2 seats in the Senate, sounds like a fair and just idea. If it were to be awarded Senatorial representation, Washington, D.C. would not be alone population-wise:
The District is more populous than Wyoming, and it’s in more or less the same neighborhood as Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, and Vermont, all of which have between 500,000 and 1 million people.
The District also already has most, if not all, of the required state apparatuses in place (because it essentially already functions like one), and statehood for D.C., as Yglesias points out, would make comprehensive federal initiatives regarding health care or climate change easier to enact. Republicans are against the idea because it would give an urban area (read Democratic) two new Senators, which to them seems unfair. But when you examine the representation of big urban centers as compared to rural districts (4 senators for the Bay Area, Sacramento Area, San Diego, LA, Buffalo, and the 5 boroughs of New York City; 6 senators for Wyoming and the Dakotas), the addition of 2 senators from an urban area makes a lot of sense. Honestly, the only negative I can think of is that 50 is a nice, round number.