By Senator Tom Cotton.
Our country faces real challenges today-for example, anti-American mobs are roaming the streets in many cities, tearing down statues of our greatest statesmen, men like Abraham Lincoln, U.S. Grant, and George Washington, after whom this capital city is named.
But the Democrats aren’t doing anything about that problem. Oh no, on the contrary. The mob is in many ways the youth movement of the Democratic Party, so they’re perfectly content to look the other way-or even cheer it on. I mean, have you heard Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, or Nancy Pelosi denouncing mob rule in our streets? Me either.
But instead, the Democrats have found another pressing issue: the House is voting tomorrow on a bill to make Washington, D.C. a state.
If that sounds insane, you’re not alone: more than two-thirds of the American people oppose D.C. statehood, according to a Gallup poll last summer. By some estimates, D.C. statehood is less popular even than defunding the police. So why are the Democrats pushing for it?
The answer is simple: power. The Democrats want to make Washington a state because they want two new Democratic senators in perpetuity. The Democrats are angry at the American people for refusing to give them total control of the government for going on a decade now. So they want to give the Swamp as many senators as your state has. They want to make Washington a state to rig the rules of our democracy and try to give the Democratic Party permanent power.
But in so doing, Democrats are committing an act of historical vandalism as grotesque as those committed by the Jacobin mobs roaming our streets. In their rush to make Washington a state, they disregard the clear warnings of our Founding Fathers.
If the Democrats succeed in forcing through D.C. statehood, they’ll do so only as a narrow faction that scorns the history of our country and seizes power against the will of the people, who want Washington to remain what it has been for more than 200 years: the Federal City, our nation’s capital.
The District of Columbia is unusual-though not unique-among capitals of the world in that it didn’t grow naturally over the centuries but was purpose-built as the capital of our nation.
The Founders created Washington as a “Federal City” so that the operations of government would be safe and free from domination by the states around it.
James Madison wrote in Federalist 43 that “the indispensable necessity of complete authority at the seat of government, carries its own evidence with it.” It’s so obvious as to be self-evident. Without complete control over its territory, Madison wrote, the government “might be insulted and its proceedings interrupted with impunity.” Hostile magistrates or an angry mob might interfere with the people’s elected representatives or even usurp the government.
This was no abstract concern for the Founders. Just five years before Madison wrote those words, several hundred mutinous soldiers assailed the Congress in Philadelphia, where it met at the time. They issued demands to Congress for money and “wantonly pointed their muskets” at Independence Hall. Pennsylvania’s governor rejected Congress’s pleas for help, saying he’d wait until the mob committed “some actual outrages on persons or property” before sending in the state militia. Congress ultimately had to adjourn and flee to New Jersey while Washington sent in troops to put down the mutiny.
This mutiny was an “insult” and “interruption” of the sort Madison refers to in Federalist 43. The Founders made Washington, D.C. independent so that the federal government would never again be at the mercy of a mob or hostile state.
The wisdom of this decision was on display just days ago, when violent riots erupted near the White House, setting fire to a historic church and committing other acts of vandalism and destruction across the city.
Those riots were contained thanks to an impressive show of force by federal law-enforcement officers under federal control. One can only imagine how much worse the destruction would’ve been if those federal officers hadn’t been there-if most of Washington was under the control not of the federal government but of a left-wing politician like Muriel Bowser, who frequently takes the side of rioters against law enforcement.
Would you trust Mayor Bowser to keep Washington safe if she were given the powers of a governor? Would you trust Marion Barry? More important: should we risk the safety of our capital on such a gamble?
Of course, the Democrats will argue their statehood bill doesn’t entirely eliminate federal control of Washington because it preserves a small “federal district” that encompasses the White House, the Capitol, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, the National Mall, and a few other government buildings.
What a humbling demotion from the grand “Federal City” that President Washington and Pierre L’Enfant envisioned more than 200 years ago, which they hoped would rival Paris in size and ambition. By contrast, look at this ridiculous map. Look at it. The Democrats propose to turn Washington into little more than a gerrymandered government theme park, surrounded on all sides by a new state-controlled, of course, by the Democrats.
The federal government’s safety and independence cannot be assured by such a laughable district. Again, look at it-it has got 90 sides!
A mere city block-less than 200 yards-separates the White House from the proposed boundaries of a new state, governed at present by a politician who hates the president. The Supreme Court and several congressional office buildings are right on the edge of the map, separated from the new Democratic state by the width of a single city street. In the event of an emergency like the Philadelphia Mutiny of 1783, those narrow boundaries could jeopardize the operations of the federal government.
Consider also what’s not included in the Democrats’ new District of Columbia. The headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security would be outside the federal government’s control, as would be the headquarters of the FBI and the FCC, which governs all communications in the country.
The seat of government would also be separated for the first time from its military bases: Fort McNair in southwest Washington, the Marine Barracks in southeast Washington, and Bolling Air Force Base across the river.
Washington’s roughly 200 foreign embassies would no longer be in the federal district but in the Democrats’ new state, giving it unusual prominence in foreign affairs-precisely the kind of special treatment the Founders hoped to avoid by created a federal city.
And while the proposed federal district would have access to a single power plant, undoubtedly it would rely on the Democrats’ new state for many basic utilities-not just power, but water, sewage, and telecommunications. It would also rely on the new state, as well as Virginia, for access by land. The civil servants and officers of the federal government would have no choice but to reside in a different state on which they would wholly depend for access to the federal zone.
Now, these may seem like minor or obscure problems. And in peaceful times, maybe they are. But recognize the truth: the government of the most powerful nation in the world wouldn’t have control of critical infrastructure necessary for its own safety, functioning, and independence in a crisis.
Maybe that seems like a remote danger, though one should think better after the riots earlier this month-to say nothing of the Civil War itself, when our seat of government faced imminent danger of encirclement by hostile forces.
In fact, the danger was so severe that President Lincoln wanted Washington to be enlarged-not diminished-to include the area south of the Potomac that was retroceded to Virginia in 1846. He said, “the present insurrection shows, I think, that the extension of this District across the Potomac at the time of establishing the capital here was eminently wise, and consequently that the relinquishment of that portion of it which lies within the state of Virginia was unwise and dangerous.”
How much more unwise and dangerous would it be to shrink the federal district even further, to just a few buildings on a 90-sided map? But that’s exactly what the Democrats propose to do.
And those are just the practical, prudential problems. D.C. statehood also presents a grave constitutional conundrum. Attorneys General as diverse as Bobby Kennedy and Ed Meese understood that the 23rd Amendment forecloses the Democrats’ statehood proposals.
The 23rd Amendment, ratified in 1961, gave Washington residents a meaningful vote in presidential elections. The amendment grants three electoral votes to, in its own words, “the District constituting the seat of Government of the United States.”
But of course, the Democrats’ new state will also be entitled to its own three electoral votes. Yet if the 23rd Amendment isn’t repealed, the rump “federal district” will retain its three electoral votes. The practical effect, of course, would be to increase the Swamp’s electoral power in presidential elections.
Even the radical Democrats can’t ignore this thorny problem. Their bill calls for the swift repeal of the 23rd Amendment. But they would allow Washington to become a state before the amendment is repealed.
But there’s no assurance that the amendment would actually be repealed. The Constitution has been amended on only 18 occasions in our nation’s history. It’s not a walk in the park in the best of times. Yet the Democrats want you to think they can pull off an amendment to alter the Electoral College in the midst of a presidential election.
In the meantime, D.C. statehood, along with the the 23rd Amendment, will lead to absurd consequences. The small “federal district” with its three electoral votes would have virtually no residents. In fact, as far as I can tell, the only residence in the district is right here: the White House. So if the House passes its bill tomorrow and the Senate were to approve it for the president’s signature, then Donald and Melania Trump need only change their voter registration from Florida to the new federal district to have their own-they very own-three electoral votes. I can’t help but think this isn’t what Nancy Pelosi had in mind.
Even putting aside these practical and constitutional problems with D.C. statehood, we still return to a basic truth: Washington is a city, with all the characteristics of a city, not a state. Washington doesn’t have the size or diversity of interests of even the smallest of the fifty states.
Consider Washington’s size. At just shy of seventy square miles, D.C. is eighteen times smaller than the smallest state in the Union, Rhode Island.
But of course, the Democrats say size doesn’t matter-what matters is population. Washington has just over 700,000 residents, more than Wyoming and Vermont, and about as many as Alaska. Doesn’t this quality Washington as a state?
Well, if it did, we’d need a lot more states, because Washington is just the twentieth largest city in the country. If Washington deserves to be a state at 700,000 residents, how much more does New York City deserve to be its own state, at eight million residents? Perhaps Bill de Blasio should trade out his title of “mayor” for “governor”-all the better to battle his nemesis, Andrew Cuomo, on equal terms. But let’s not give the Democrats any bright ideas.
Or what about Jacksonville, Florida, at more than 900,000 residents? Shouldn’t we have a State of Jackson to accompany the new State of Washington? But we all know that won’t do. Jacksonville is governed by a Republican-and the Democrats have cancelled Andrew Jackson.
Washington also doesn’t have the “diversity of interests and financial independence” that Madison explained were necessary for a well-functioning state. Yes, Wyoming is smaller than Washington by population, but it has three times as many workers in mining, logging, and construction-and ten times as many workers in manufacturing. In other words, Wyoming is a well-rounded, working-class state. A new state of Washington would not be.
Or what about Alaska? It provides more than 60% of the nation’s seafood. And its vital geography both protects the entire nation with missile-defense systems and enables us to check Russian and Chinese ambitions in the Arctic.
But what vital industries would the new state of Washington represent? Lobbying? Bureaucracy? Give me a break. By far the largest groups of workers in the city are bureaucrats and other white-collar professionals. This new state would be nothing more than an appendage of the federal government-not separate from the government, as a state ought to be.
Faced with these insuperable facts, the Democrats will retreat to the claim that it’s not fair for Washington to pay taxes but not be represented in Congress. Washington residents, they say, get a raw deal. “No taxation without representation,” as their license plates proclaim.
But of course this is backwards. As our nation’s capital, the District of Columbia is represented by the very fact of its privileged position-and it reaps the benefits of that privilege.
For every one dollar that District residents pay in taxes, they get four dollars back in federal spending. That’s more than any of the fifty states.
Nor is Washington unique in its relationship to Congress. Just like other territories-Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands-Washington has a non-voting member of Congress who’s empowered to introduce legislation, advocate for it on the House floor, and sit on committees. In fact, Washington’s delegate introduced the very bill that Democrats plan to vote on tomorrow to create this ridiculous federal district.
If it’s a special indignity for Washington residents not to have a voting member of Congress, is it also an indignity to the 55,000 residents of American Samoa? Should they get two senators, as well? Once again, though, best not to give the Democrats bright ideas. They already want to make Puerto Rico a state.
But all my observations about the practical effects and constitutional obstacles give too much credit to what the Democrats are really up to: a naked power grab.
Democrats in Congress are advocating D.C. statehood against the will of the American people-including the will of Democratic voters, a majority of whom oppose D.C. statehood. Democratic politicians are pushing for this radically unpopular idea not because it’s a sound idea but because they’re angry that they don’t win every election under the current rules. So they want to change the rules.
If you doubt this whole endeavor is about power, consider that the Democrats could just as easily call for retroceding the District of Columbia to Maryland. This would give Washington residents the voting power in Congress that is supposedly at the heart of this matter: a voting member in the House and representation in the Senate. There’s even historical precedent for retrocession, unlike turning the federal district into a state.
But retrocession wouldn’t give the Democrats their real aim: two Democratic senators in perpetuity to rubber-stamp the Swamp’s agenda. So you won’t hear them talk about it.
And also consider the Democrats’ other big ideas. You’ll see a startling theme. Earlier this week, the junior senator from Delaware expressed his openness to ending the legislative filibuster-even though he wrote the letter demanding that we preserve the filibuster. Having two more Democratic senators would be awfully handy to that goal. The Democrats also have a scheme to abolish the Electoral College, so that a handful of massive, liberal cities can pick the president from now on. And they want to pack the Supreme Court, so liberal activists never lose again at the highest court in the land.
These proposals have practical and constitutional problems as glaring as D.C. statehood. But the Democratic Party pushes forward nevertheless, because their goal is to accumulate as much power as possible, and never relinquish it.
This week the mob comes for Washington-his statue, his history, and now his city. We must oppose this destructive campaign here in the Senate, just as it is opposed by a majority of the American people across the country.