DC statehood fight can continue, despite Supreme Court ruling

The fight for D.C. statehood is far from over, even after the Supreme Court issued a ruling Monday that may have left statehood advocates feeling defeated.

“The issue is alive and well,” said Thomas Cooke, a business law professor at Georgetown University.

Justices upheld a lower court’s ruling that said Congress is not constitutionally required to give the District voting representation.

While that may have been disappointing for those fighting for representation, Cooke said simply having the court mention the case could be considered a win.

“This is a subject that comes and goes in terms of local and national attention,” said Cooke. “Getting attention to the issue is incredibly important.”

The court’s ruling does not have a direct impact on the push for statehood, nor does it prevent Congress from passing legislation that would grant the District voting representation in Congress at some point.

“According to the Supreme Court’s decision, it is not a constitutional right, but that doesn’t mean that the issue can’t be picked up through the legislative process,” Cooke said.

D.C. has long chafed under its relationship with Congress, which has the power to essentially veto or alter any local laws. Its population is larger than that of Wyoming or Vermont, and its estimated 712,000 residents pay federal taxes, vote for president and serve in the armed forces but have no voting representation in Congress.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton currently serves as D.C.’s delegate on Capitol Hill, but she is a nonvoting member in the House of Representatives.

A bill that would make the nation’s capital the 51st state passed in the House but has not moved forward in the Senate.

The legislation proposes creating a 51st state with one representative and two senators, while a tiny sliver of land including the White House, the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall would remain as a federal district. Instead of the District of Columbia, the new state would be known as Washington, Douglass Commonwealth — named after famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who lived in Washington from 1877 until his death in 1895.

Many Republicans oppose the idea given that the new state would be overwhelmingly Democratic.

A succession of Republican representatives decried it as a cynical and unconstitutional power-grab. The country’s Founding Fathers, “never wanted D.C. to be a state and then specifically framed the constitution to say so,” said Georgia Republican Rep. Jody Hice.

Kentucky Republican Rep. James Comer called the measure “flatly unconstitutional.”

“It won’t withstand judicial scrutiny, but it will cause massive confusion for years as it’s reviewed by the courts,” Comer said in a statement. “Democrats are pushing D.C. statehood to pack the U.S. Senate with two progressive senators so they can end the filibuster, pack the Supreme Court, enact the Green New Deal, and create the socialist utopia the Squad dreams about.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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