APR 13, 2021

SC AG Alan Wilson leads coalition of 22 AGs in sending letter to President and Congress opposing D.C. statehood as unconstitutional

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) – April 13, 20201 - South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and 21 attorneys general sent a letter today to President Biden and the leaders of Congress opposing bills to make the District of Columbia a state. The letter from the attorneys general, first and foremost, is an effort to uphold the U.S. Constitution.

“There’s a clear reason we’re against granting statehood to D.C.,” Attorney General Wilson said. “We’re sworn to uphold the Constitution and it would be unconstitutional to make Washington, D.C. a state. The Founding Fathers opposed statehood for the nation’s seat of government.”

In their letter, the attorneys general point out that, while the Constitution does allow Congress to admit new states, it cannot be done through ordinary legislation. “Rather, the only lawful way to provide statehood to the District of Columbia is to amend the Constitution,” they write.

That’s because the District of Columbia’s creation traces to Article 1, section 8, clause 17 of the Constitution, which says Congress shall have the power:

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of Government of the United States….

While the Constitution gives Congress the authority to govern the District by exercising exclusive legislation over it, it does not provide authority for Congress to unilaterally change the size of the District through simple legislation, much less create an entirely new state. In fact, if it were that easy, there would have been no need for the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution, which provides for the electors of President and Vice-President to “the District constituting the seat of Government of the United States.”

However, constitutionality is not the only issue. The Founding Fathers considered making the seat of government a separate state and rejected the idea. James Madison noted in Federalist 43 the “indispensable necessity of complete authority at the seat of government.”

Supporters of making the District of Columbia a state argue that the residents of D.C. are somehow disenfranchised and are not adequately supported by Congress. But the attorneys general argue making D.C. a state would actually give those residents more power than the residents of other states.

“Its residents—who all willingly live in the District with an understanding of its unique nature, including Congressional staff, leaders of federal departments and agencies, members of the media, lawyers, and lobbyists—have more power, influence, and control over Congress and the nation than anyone else. The notion that Members of Congress, many of whom spend substantially more time in the District than at home, do not represent adequately the interests of residents of the district is absurd,” the attorneys general write.

The proposed legislation would also change the name of the District of Columbia to the “State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth” and would give residents special voter registration and voting privileges.

“In short, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act is unconstitutional, represents unsound policy, and, if allowed to take effect, would create a super-state with unrivaled power. If you try to enact it and provide statehood to the District of Columbia, we will stop it,” the letter concludes.

The letter is led by South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Also joining the letter are the states of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia.

You can read the letter here.

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