D.C. statehood could solve Senate problems

Decision to include D.C. would benefit minority voices in United States Congress


Jacob Schaffer, Contributing Writer

The Senate is broken and there is no more ignoring the fact that the upper chamber of Congress cannot perform its most basic responsibility: to legislate. The last major piece of legislation passed through the Senate was former President Donald Trump’s tax plan in 2017. Since then, it has been mostly judicial appointments and low-stakes bills. The Senate has routinely failed to address the country’s biggest issues, including the climate crisis, gun control, and new civil rights protections. While it is easy to oversimplify the lack of major legislation to issues such as general bipartisanship or divided chambers, the complicated truth is that the Senate is no longer representative of the nation. However, making Washington D.C. a state could help solve this issue.

There are many flaws to the modern United States Senate. One of the most obvious is the fact that every state is allotted the same amount of Senators, meaning that smaller states, such as Wyoming and Vermont, are given the same amount of Senators as bigger states, like California and Texas. But California has 39 million more residents than Wyoming. California is also far more diverse, with only 36 percent of its state population being white, compared to Wyoming’s 83 percent. These sorts of disparities prevail throughout the Senate and allow for the minority to block legislation that the majority supports. Furthermore, the current 50 Senate Republicans represent 41.5 million fewer people than the other 50 members of the Senate, and Republicans still have more “safe” seats in the chamber. See any problems?

There are many solutions to fixing the Senate and keeping the Republicans from using the anti-Obama, obstructionist playbook during the Biden administration, as many of the issues in the country need quick and decisive legislative action. Some of the most practical actions that could be taken to fix the Senate include ending the filibuster and allotting Senators based on population. However, the case for D.C. statehood is equally vital in the fight to make the Senate work again and there are plenty of reasons why D.C. should be a state regardless of the national implications.

Currently, D.C. is a US territory and falls under a similar category of oversight and federal representation as islands such as Guam and Puerto Rico.  D.C. does have some special privileges, as it’s allotted three electoral college votes and is given a representative in the House, but this representative can only make oral arguments and introduce legislation, they cannot vote on anything. However, D.C. is a major American city, home to 705,749 people. That is more than Wyoming and Vermont and is close behind Alaska and North Dakota.

Giving D.C. statehood would be beneficial in increasing the representation of black people in congress, as 46 percent of the D.C. population is black, a demographic that is underrepresented in the Senate.

D.C. is highly likely to elect a Democratic member of the House along with two Democratic Senators, as D.C. has voted for the Democratic Presidential nominee every single election since it was given electoral votes in 1961.  By giving Democrats two more Senators, it could fundamentally change the way the Senate and the Republican party have to operate, as the chamber would become far more balanced. D.C. statehood could force Republicans to fight to keep a foothold in the Senate, meaning they might change their party platform to be more aligned with the majority of the country.

There are also ethical reasons why D.C. should be a state. For instance, United States’ territories don’t pay federal income taxes, except in the case of D.C., which pays more in federal income taxes per capita than every other state. Since D.C. is not a state, it also does not have control over its national guard or its local government funding, the federal government does. The issues federal control can cause were made clear during the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th, when the former president delayed sending in the D.C. national guard. Had it been under the control of the local government, the national guard would have surely been deployed hours sooner.

The case for making D.C. a state cannot be more clear. Nationally, it would help to balance the power of the Senate and increase the representation of minority voices in congress. Currently, D.C. residents are treated as second-class citizens, being taxed the most per capita in the country without adequate representation in congress. Didn’t we have a revolution some 245 years ago based on similar ideas?