Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

As legislation to grant the District of Columbia voting rights in the House of Representatives moves on to the Senate, Republicans opposed to the measure have brought up a potential smokescreen: Instead of passing this legislation, there should be a move to enact a constitutional amendment granting the District statehood. The Hill's Kelly McCormack has the details.

But the bill's fate remains uncertain, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has hinted that there could be a filibuster on the bill. He said that he would support a constitutional amendment for statehood instead.

"This measure, if it is worth pursuing, ought to be pursued in a legal and appropriate way," McConnell said in a press conference yesterday. "And amending the Constitution is clear[ly] and unambiguously the way to do it."

It is certainly possible that McConnell is sincere in his desire for DC to attain status as a state. I'm skeptical that this is the case given that DC, which might be known as New Columbia as a state, would almost certainly send two Democrats to the Senate, potentially changing the balance of power in the chamber to make it significantly more difficult for Republicans to regain their majority. More likely, it seems to me that McConnell is holding out the potential for an amendment because it would take more votes and a greater effort than simply passing a bill through Congress.

But it is not necessarily my intention to impugn the motives of the Senate Republican Leader in this post. Instead, I'd like to take McConnell at his word. To show that he is true to his word, McConnell should immediately introduce an amendment granting DC statehood. What's more, given that McConnell would be the lead sposor and key supporter of this amendment, it would be incumbent upon him to strenuously whip his caucus to help find the votes necessary to make the change to the constitution. And even more, given that McConnell has more than $4.3 million on hand as of the end of the first quarter and his personal net worth is valued at somewhere between about $1.8 million and $4.1 million, he should commit to invest a significant amount of money -- certainly in excess of one million dollars, either from campaign or personal funds, or some combination therein -- to fund an effort to push a sufficient number of states to ratify such an amendment.

Now will McConnell actually follow through? It remains to be seen -- but I'm not holding my breath. But for more on the effort to enfranchise those who live in the District, check out FreeAndEqualDC.com, as well as the Congresspedia entry on voting rights in the District.

Update [2007-5-3 14:20:48 by Jonathan Singer]: Perhaps -- perhaps -- I'm being unfair about bringing up McConnell's personal finances. But the fact that he has a huge campaign chest still does make it possible for his to fund a robust effort backing ratification.

Tags: DC Statehood, DC voting rights, House, Senate (all tags)

Comments

40 Comments

Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood
This post is silly. When do any members of congress spend their own money to advocate any legislation, no matter how important? Is the point to attack McConnell for being wealthy? Plenty of Democratic senators are guilty of the same crime. It would be nice if we could deal with the criticism that the DC vote legislation is unconstitutional more substantively.
by gsteff 2007-05-03 09:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood
Sorry, that was overly harsh. McConnell is definitely being a hypocrite about wanting the amendment. I just didn't think the joke made complete sense; I think its not unusual for congressional party leaders to sponsor legislation without whipping it... Tom Daschle did that on some ugly farm subsidies that he needed to support since he was from South Dakota, I believe. And it makes no sense to demand that congresspeople spend their own money advocating any legislation.
by gsteff 2007-05-03 09:25AM | 0 recs
were previous statehood fights dominated by cui

bono considerations ?

by Cyt 2007-05-03 10:23AM | 0 recs
There's no bluff to call

"This measure, if it is worth pursuing, ought to be pursued in a legal and appropriate way," McConnell said.

If.

Like it or not (and like him or not, which I don't), McConnell never said it was worth pursuing.  He surely thinks it isn't.

He's saying that its proponents should pursue a Constitutional amendment, rather than legislation.  It's a legitimate position, and it doesn't require anything from him.

by RT 2007-05-03 09:23AM | 0 recs
Re: There's no bluff to call

He said that he would support a constitutional amendment for statehood instead.

I'd assume that's based on reporting, not just the quote referenced. Perhaps I'm wrong, though...

by Jonathan Singer 2007-05-03 09:31AM | 0 recs
Re: There's no bluff to call

Luckily, with Sen. Orrin Hatch on as a cosponsor and Sen. Bennett (the other one from Utah) supporting it, this bill has a chance in the Senate.  I have little doubt that McConnell opposes this and would support a filibuster, and 60 votes may be hard but it's not unattainable with the two Utah Senators on board.

I'd advocate ignoring McConnell entirely and continuing to organize and build pressure.

by jzaharoff 2007-05-03 11:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

He's just trying to stop legislation.  That'd be funny if they changed their position on it for him and then he started complaining more.  They'd stretch what he said and yell "flip flopper!"  Although I wouldn't mind having "New Columbia" get two senators for us in there.  Not a bad deal.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-03 09:33AM | 0 recs
Why stop with DC?

Somebody should present an amendment granting statehood to DC and Puerto Rico.

Talk about shifting the balance of power- can you say "Four new safe seats for Dems in the Senate?" I knew you could!

by chimneyswift 2007-05-03 09:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Why stop with DC?

Yeah.  Maybe we could cut Wyoming in half, just to sweeten the deal for them.  New Wyoming?  South Wyoming?  Hm...

by Sam L 2007-05-03 09:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Why stop with DC?

Right, or have California annex Oregon so we can keep the total number of Senators at 100.  We'd lose some great college football rivalries, though.

by jzaharoff 2007-05-03 11:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Why stop with DC?
Hell no.
1.  California can go eff itself.
2.  California is already by far the biggest state.  It's citizens are already the least represented in the Senate, and California has by far the most Reps in the House.  No need to make California even bigger.
3.  California can go eff itself, Oregon rulz.
by jallen 2007-05-03 11:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Why stop with DC?

I Think He Was Kidding.

by nibit25 2007-05-03 11:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Why stop with DC?

I know, but I wasn't.

by jallen 2007-05-03 12:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Why stop with DC?

This is absolutely correct.  We should actually set up a process for transitioning ALL our non-state territories to either statehood or nationhood.  Then we can go about the business of governing in a truly democratic fashion.  All the Pacific islands should either be grouped as a new state or added to Hawaii.

by Demo Dan in Dayton 2007-05-03 09:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Why stop with DC?

Do the residents of these islands want to be grouped together or tacked onto Hawaii?  I have never even talked to a Guamian on the internet, much less in person.  PR at least has a strong pro-statehood movement

by Valatan 2007-05-03 11:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Why stop with DC?

You don't need an amendment for Puerto Rico.  

by Valatan 2007-05-03 11:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Why stop with DC?

The House proposal is a sham.
While I support giving DEL Eleanor Holmes Norton and the US House Delegates from Puerto Rico,, voting power in the US House of Represenatives. I am against giving Utah an extra House seat prior to the 2010 Census. each US House Member represents 700,000 people.
We make District of Columbia a State- give Eleanor Holmes Norton voting power in the US HOuse.
We make Puerto Rico a State. Give Puerto Rico 5 additional US House Seats- + the current US House Delegate voting power. population (4 million).

7 additional Democratic US House members and 4 Democratic Senators.

by nkpolitics 2007-05-03 12:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

If the GOP would go for statehood perhaps Democratic leadership could propose statehood for another of the U.S. territories that would have potential for GOP representation in the House and Senate. That could be a compromise that would not tip the balance in the Senate and would at long last allow DC residents full representation.

by robliberal 2007-05-03 09:50AM | 0 recs
I doubt there is one

Territory that would lean Republican that is.

At best McConnell is stalling. A constutional amendment would have to be ratified by 3/4ths of the States. You can bet big money that even if this thing came out of Congress (which it won't due to the two Senator thing) an immediate effort would be made in Red States to bottle this up for as long as possible.

McConnell is just trying to kick the ball down the road.

by Bruce Webb 2007-05-03 10:11AM | 0 recs
Re: I doubt there is one

McConnell would propose giving the Dakota 3 US Senators to balance giving DC Statehood.

by nkpolitics 2007-05-03 12:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

And even more, given that McConnell has more than $4.3 million on hand as of the end of the first quarter and his personal net worth is valued at somewhere between about $1.8 million and $4.1 million, he should commit to invest a significant amount of money -- certainly in excess of one million dollars, either from campaign or personal funds, or some combination therein -- to fund an effort to push a sufficient number of states to ratify such an amendment.

Wait, so he should donate a little over 1/10 of his net worth (4.1+4.3) just to prove that he believes in the cause of DC statehood?

I think it's right for you to demand that he introduce the legislation if he truly supports,  and you're spot on that he should be forced to push hard for it. But come on--when we make demands, let's make them reasonable ones that might actually be met. That's good because when they are met, future demands will be taken more seriously, and if they aren't we can say we asked for something reasonable which they wouldn't give. That puts them in the wrong, not us.

by afertig 2007-05-03 09:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

Yeah, every time a Senator says they would support some bill or another, they have to either spend millions of dollars trying to get it passed or else be a hypocrite.  That's reasonable.

by Steve M 2007-05-03 10:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

I have always thought DC Statehood arguments were silly and not reality based.

Yes, people in DC need to have a vote in the Senate and House.

But it would make more sense to annex DC to MD or VA , exempt DC proper from certain state security arrangements (as it has special needs) and go about it that way.

DC to MD, which geographically makes sense, guarantees no more hope of GOP winning in MD EVER.

DC to VA firmly turns VA purple.

by jgkojak 2007-05-03 10:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

Sure, but it doesn't seem like either state is interested in taking on the baggage.  It's not like we can just force them to accept extra territory.

by Steve M 2007-05-03 12:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

As for people talking about territories...

There are five: Guam, Puerto Rico, Samoa Islands (Or American Samoa), Northern Mariana Islands and US Virgin Islands.  

The thing about taking each place into statehood, is that
1. Their poverty levels are much higher.  Our federal government would spend a lot to create jobs to build housing, welfare programs, etc.  
-What the European Union does is they take one country in at a time and lift the economy slowly.  I agree with that ordeal.  Let them vote on joining and pick one up at a time, integrating their economies.  

2. some have been waiting longer than others, it would be somewhat unfair to put Puerto Rico in first, but we have to start somewhere?  I know.  It's just something to consider.  

I'm guessing like others have said, we can get DC that extra seat without the senate fillibustering it.  If we integrate Puerto Rico, that's roughly two senate seats and six house seats based on population.  I couldn't tell you the rest, but I'm sure they are as partisan as Hawaii is.  

The problem with getting Puerto Rico in, is they are afraid they'll lose their culture.  So they are split between commonwealth and being a state.  About half want federal funding without being a state.  That probably isn't going to happen, that's why their becoming a state is taking so long.  They still have hope for just being commonwealth instead.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-03 11:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

Something interesting is that our labor laws would then apply in all of these places.  Remember all of that fuss over Tom Delay and the Northern Marianas?

by jallen 2007-05-03 11:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

It's not unfair to put Puerto Rico in first, as it has a vastly larger population than the other four:

Guam pop: 171,109
PR:  3,927,188
Samoa: 57,794
Northern Marinas: 71,192
US Virgin Islands: 108,488.
DC: 582,049
Wyoming: 493,782
Alaska: 663,661

Puerto Rico has a larger population than all of the other territories combined plus two current US states and DC.  DC is the only non PR territory that is larger than a current US state.    

by Valatan 2007-05-03 11:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

The fact that they haven't been waiting as long.  They obviously win when it comes to population.  DC has been waiting for about 200 years.  We should get that resolved, then figure out who we want to deal with and get it done so we can start preparing for the next.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-03 12:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

Delegates of US HOUSE
DC- Holmes Norton- D
PR- Luis Fortono- R
Samoa- D
Guam- D
Virgin Islands-D

Give Statehood to DC and Puerto Rico. EHN has voting power in the US House. plus Puerto will get 5 additional House Seats.

by nkpolitics 2007-05-03 12:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

There are more than 5...

District of Columbia
American Samoa
Guam
Puerto Rico
Northern Marianas
Baker Island
Howland Island
Jarvis Island
Kingman Reef
Midway Islands
Navassa Island
Palau
Palmyra Atoll
U.S. Virgin Islands
Wake Island
Micronesia

by robliberal 2007-05-03 03:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

We are going to agree to disagree on this one Rob but if Congress wants to remove the income tax from DC than I'll be happy with no representation.  That is not going to happen.  DC has more people than Wyoming, we pay more taxes to the feds than several other states too.  The places you mention don't pay federal taxes -- Puerto Rico doesn't though I can't be totally sure about Jarvis Island.

by howardpark 2007-05-03 04:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

Why would you go through the constitutional amendment process to grant D.C. statehood, which requires the approval of three-fourths of states, when all you need is to pass a statehood bill, which requires simple majorities in both houses?

by jcullen 2007-05-03 12:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

Because you might have to.  I mean, the constitutional argument has some merit on both sides.

by Steve M 2007-05-03 12:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

bottom line is that statehood's not happening - at least until Dems have 60+ votes in Senate. That's why this bill's got a tradeoff w/ Utah, keeping partisan parity.

by EDavis 2007-05-03 02:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

You do not need a constitutional amendment to make DC a state.  A simple magority vote by congress can do that.  You may need an amendment to grant DC representation without making it a state, that is what the fight is over.  The DC Vote bills proponents (myself included) believe Congress has the statutory authority to give DC representation, McConnell doesn't.  The bluff would be called if a constitutional amendment was introduced to do what this bill does and grant DC a House member without making it a state.  They can make it a state any time without an amendment.

by Michael C 2007-05-03 02:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

You might need to repeal/revise the 23rd amendment, which is premised on DC not being a state

by wrog 2007-05-03 10:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

Congress certainly couldn't repeal the 23rd Amendment by statute, so without further action, D.C. could get double electors.  But since the Amendment specifically says that Congress can designate the method by which D.C.'s electors are chosen, it could potentially eliminate their effect on the Electoral College --- for example by providing that the three candidates receiving the greatest number of votes in the District will each be allowed to designate one (and only one) elector.  Therefore the Democratic and Republican candidates' electors will cancel each other out, and the third-party elector's vote will be, well, meaningless.  

(Heck, one could also make a double reform--- have Congress pledge the District's three 23rd Amendment electors to the winner of the national popular vote.)

by steintr 2007-05-04 10:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

Michael C is correct that a simple majority is all you need to make DC a state.  Read the Constitution, there is nothing that declares how large the District has to be (or even that there actually has to be one - it only says that IF there is one, Congress will have responsibility for it).  Half the District was retroceded (the half south of the Potomac) back to Virginia in the 1840's.  (for History buffs, recall whose plantation was in that portion of the District, which land now makes up Arlington National Cemetery, and you see why retrocession occurred).

The upshot is that Congress can pass a bill reducing the "District" to the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court buildings, and make the rest of the land into the state of "New Columbia."  All legal, all simple.

As for practicality, the DC population is larger than Wyoming, and less than 40 years ago, it was larger than 13 states.  So BS arguments that it is "too small" is just that - BS.

by GreenlaborMike 2007-05-03 02:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

FYI - Congress did pass a DC statehood amendment in the late 1970's (I believe 1978) but it was ratified by only a handful of states.

McConnell is clearly not sincere re: DC statehood.  That's a laugher.  Instead, he is trying to change the subject.  The subject is a vote in the US House.  Sure, DC should be a state.  In the words of Justice Douglas in Baker v. Carr "legislators represent people not trees."  But statehood can only happen is Dems are stronger in Congress or if Republicans like McConnell ever sincerely believe in no taxation without representation.  Any serious move toward statehood would have to address issues related to Maryland & Virginia as well.  McConnell is not serious about anything except keeping DC taxpayers from having ANY voting representation.

by howardpark 2007-05-03 03:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Call McConnell's Bluff on DC Statehood

That's still on the table until it gets enough states to ratify, correct?  Does anyone know which states ratified it?

by jallen 2007-05-03 04:04PM | 0 recs

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