News & Politics

Six Colossally Stupid Arguments Against DC Statehood

Contrary to popular belief, having a robust logging industry is not a criteria for statehood

Maryland Rep. Andy Harris falsely argued DC is still Maryland's land

This morning, members of the House of Representatives debated DC Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s bill for DC statehood. A number of the arguments against statehood from the right seemed, well, less than informed. Here are six of the dumbest reasons to bar DC statehood.

If Washingtonians want voting rights, they should just retrocede the land to Maryland

North Carolina Rep. Greg Murphy said DC land not controlled by the federal government should just be returned to the state whence it came, giving residents the right to vote as Maryland citizens. A nice thought, except for the fact that Maryland hasn’t consented to such a plan.

Congress doesn’t have the right to decide what to do with DC land, because it’s Maryland’s land

Maryland Rep. Andy Harris gave an impassioned speech in defense of his state, saying “The nerve of hundreds of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle thinking it’s [Congress’] land, it’s Maryland’s land!” Um, no. When Maryland ceded its land to create the capital, it formally transferred control of that land to the federal government.

We shouldn’t waste time debating this because the United States is “burning to the ground”

Texas Rep. Chip Roy argued the issue of DC statehood was unconstitutional and not worth debating, because the country needs to focus on getting nationwide protests under control. While there were certainly a number of looters in the District, demonstrations have been widely peaceful and many escalations were instigated by federal forces (i.e. Attorney General Bill Barr ordering the teargassing and dispersal of peaceful protesters at Lafayette Square). Those forces only had the right to occupy the District because of its lack of statehood.

DC doesn’t have a logging or mining industry

Wisconsin Rep. Glenn Grothman said DC “is not like any state out there,” as it doesn’t have “agriculture, manufacturing, logging or mining” industries. He said if DC became a state, representatives would spend “almost all their time trying to get money for the city.” Well…yes. DC definitely has a brain-based economy, but the top three industries of Connecticut are “finance, insurance, and real estate” and its citizens still get a vote. And any representative not trying to get the maximum possible federal funding for their constituents isn’t really doing their job.

There aren’t enough residents to justify statehood

Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks took issue with the size of DC, saying “I will never vote to give a single, middling-size city the same power as one of America’s 50 states,” adding there are a number of cities in Alabama about the same size as DC that don’t qualify for statehood. With a population of roughly 700,000 people, DC has more citizens than either Vermont or Wyoming. DC is the 20th most populous city in the country, while Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city, comes in at 109th with a population of roughly 200,000 people

DC isn’t financially prepared for statehood

Georgia Rep. Jody Hice said “there’s nobody who’s a greater supporter of state’s rights than I am,” but said DC was “not prepared financially” to “shoulder the burden of statehood,” citing a time when Congress had to bail out DC in the 1990’s. However, a lot has changed since then. In 2018, DC received a triple A credit rating, the highest rating possible. Meanwhile, Illinoisans still get to enjoy statehood despite its credit rating hovering just above “junk” status.

Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.