Dusk at the U.S. Capitol in the District of Columbia where the U.S. House voted to grant statehood to the federal district despite GOP opposition from Kansas lawmakers. The measure is likely to stall in the U.S. Senate. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
TOPEKA — U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall argues residential land in the District of Columbia ought to be added to Maryland to thwart the attempt by Democrats to create a 51st state most likely to elect liberal members of the Senate and House.
Marshall, a Republican who echoed the sentiment shared by three GOP U.S. House members from Kansas, said the “power-grab” effort to grant D.C. statehood was a brazen attempt to add to Democratic majority in the Senate.
House Democrats and others in support of the movement argue it would bring equal representation and voting rights to more than 700,000 people living in the federal district, which in 2020 gave President Joe Biden 92% of their votes against 5% for President Donald Trump.
“If the Democrats want D.C. statehood, make it part of Maryland,” said Marshall, author of a bill making it so. “Americans recognize this blatant power grab intended to increase the number of Democrat senators so they can enact their radical agenda and forever tip the scales of power in their favor.”
He said D.C. statehood was “just another example of their political greediness and goal to alter the very fabric of our republic.”
The statehood legislation cleared the U.S. House on April 22 on a party-line vote of 216-208. Kansas Republicans Ron Estes, Jake LaTurner and Tracey Mann voted against the legislation, while Democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids cast a vote in favor. A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said Sunday that the Republican senator didn’t support D.C. statehood.
In the Senate, the 60-vote requirement to advance statehood legislation could be a significant hurdle. The likely death blow came when U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, said advocates of D.C. statehood should bring a constitutional amendment to achieve that goal.
Kansas and 36 other states, all but the original 13, were admitted to the union by vote of the House and Senate. After several false starts, Kansas became the 34th state in January 1861.
“The District of Columbia exists only because we thought no state should have special consideration of being the nation’s capitol,” said Estes, who serves the 4th District in Wichita and southcentral Kansas. “If we’re going to follow those guidelines, let’s give the land back to Maryland.”
Estes said House Resolution 51 was a desperate move by the “radical left to protect their fleeting majority in Congress.” He anticipates a power shift after the 2022 elections.
In “The Federalist” No. 43, James Madison warned of the “imputation of awe or influence” onto the new national government should it be located within a state. The theory was the District of Columbia would be a neutral site for co-equal sovereign states to conduct the nation’s business.
Under the U.S. House-passed legislation, federal buildings and monuments would remain in the District of Columbia. The district would include the National Mall as well as the White House, the Capitol, the U.S. Supreme Court building and other spaces of the legislative, executive and judicial branches.
“Democrats are pushing D.C. statehood to consolidate power and enact their radical liberal agenda. This legislation is unconstitutional,” said LaTurner, the Republican covering the 2nd District of eastern Kansas.
LaTurner said he was grateful for Manchin’s interest in bipartisan dialogue on legislation pending before the federal government.
“I tell folks this all the time and I mean it sincerely,” LaTurner said. “You should keep Joe Manchin in your prayers every single day so he can stand up and push back.”
Democrats in the U.S. House passed a statehood bill in 2020, but Senate Republicans didn’t take it up. The November 2020 election left Democrats in control of the U.S. House and the White House, but created a 50-50 split in the U.S. Senate that could be broken by Vice President Kamala Harris.
Residents of the District of Columbia pay federal taxes, vote for president and serve in the military, but don’t have full voting representation in Congress.
Wade Henderson, interim president and chief executive officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, endorsed granting equal rights to citizens of the District of Columbia.
“For more than 200 years,” he said during House testimony, “my hundreds of thousands of neighbors in this city and I have been mere spectators to our democracy. Even though we pay federal taxes, fight courageously in wars, and fulfill all of the other obligations of citizenship, we still have no voice when Congress makes decisions for the entire nation on matters as important as war and peace, taxes and spending, health care, education, immigration policy or the environment.”
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