Why shouldn’t the District become a state? Opponents at Monday’s U.S. Senate hearing cited the grave threat that the city might gain full authority over its snowplows. You read that right. According to this objection, a self-governing District might intimidate Congress through its control of basic services for Capitol Hill. Statehood “would make the federal government dependent on an independent state, New Columbia, for everything from electrical power to water, sewers, snow removal, police and fire protection,” Roger Pilon, a constitutional scholar for the libertarian Cato Institute, testified. In Pilon’s defense, his argument is rooted in James Madison’s long-ago desire to prevent any individual state from unduly influencing Congress. But that concern is completely outdated.
The republic has survived the location of quite a few important federal agencies in self-governing states. The Pentagon in Virginia and National Security Agency in Maryland, for instance.
Pilon’s point was typical of the specious criticisms raised at the hearing about the proposal to convert most of the District into the 51st state. In an eye-opening revelation, opponents didn’t even bother to offer an alternative to extend elementary democratic rights to more than 600,000 District residents.
The message to the District was: We’ll collect your taxes and let your kids die in our wars, but your lack of representation in Congress is your tough luck.