Say 'No' to Statehood for Washington, D.C. | Opinion

The headlines over the past few weeks have been filled with toppled, vandalized and targeted statues, including those of Founding-era Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. But these aren't the only efforts to tear down physical representations of our history. This week, the Party of Jefferson—or rather, what it has turned into—is targeting another tangible legacy of the Founders' vision: the federal district of Washington, D.C.

To put it simply, Democrats' current bill for D.C. statehood ignores more than just the plain text of the Constitution—it also completely disregards the history and the reasoning that undergirds it.

When the Founders gathered in Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention of 1787, they had a difficult task in front of them. Through debates and compromises, they had to come up with a national government that would govern and hold together 13 sovereign states, each of which was wary of the others' ambitions.

Above all else, the Founders were concerned with power—and particularly the power that states would have relative to each other, the federal government and their own people. And so, in several different ways, they came up with a constitutional structure meant to restrain what James Madison—the Father of our Constitution—called "the encroaching spirit of power."

One of these precautions ended up being the District of Columbia as the nation's capital: a 10-by-10 mile federal area that no state would control. Instead, all the states and the people would reign over the designated area through their elected officials in Congress.

The intent behind the provision is clear enough from the text of the Constitution, which vests Congress with the power to "exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever" over the federal district as may become necessary.

Madison explained the importance of the District's independence in The Federalist No. 43. The goal, he explains, was to keep all states on equal footing with one another and not to give any one of them undue power and influence:

Nor would it be proper for the places on which the security of the entire Union may depend, to be in any degree dependent on a particular member of it. All objections and scruples are here also obviated, by requiring the concurrence of the States concerned, in every such establishment.

Madison did not make this argument in a vacuum. In fact, one of the incidents that was undoubtedly fresh in his memory now has a familiar ring, given recent events.

Constitutional Convention of 1787
Constitutional Convention of 1787 GraphicaArtis/Getty Images

In 1783, the state government of Pennsylvania failed to send in the militia to protect the Confederation Congress during a mutiny of former Revolutionary soldiers, forcing members of the legislature to flee Philadelphia for Princeton, New Jersey.

Likewise, recent events have also shown us that the federal government still has to step in to defend its people and institutions during moments of unrest across the nation. When Washington, D.C.'s Mayor Muriel Bowser recently failed to stop the chaos in the District, it was the orders of Attorney General Bill Barr that brought order back to the capital. But despite this recent display, Mayor Bowser somehow expects the D.C. police to become state police overnight—and to carry by itself the burden it now shares with the federal government.

It is true: The citizens of the District of Columbia live in the only 68 square miles—less than 1 percent of the size of most states—in the entire Union where they cannot be citizens of a state. But that is by willful design: The federal government cannot be seated in a state, lest the other states become diminished.

One of the biggest complaints about this design is that District residents don't have a voting member of Congress. The Framers addressed this concern, as well. At New York's constitutional ratifying convention in July 1788, Alexander Hamilton put forward an amendment to the proposed Constitution's District Clause that would have given District residents the ability to attain representation in Congress once they grew to a certain size. But that amendment was rejected. From this, we can see that the Framers considered and ultimately rejected granting congressional representation to the District.

The history is clear, and we ought to listen to it instead of tearing it down. The current proposal before Congress may ride a wave of sentiment amplified by current events, but it completely ignores the importance of the District of Columbia's status under our constitutional system. Putting aside the cold, hard fact that making the District into a state requires a constitutional amendment rather than a simple act of Congress, doing so in any form would accomplish the exact opposite of what the Framers intended for the seat of our national government.

Congressman Jody Hice represents Georgia's 10th District. He serves as ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform's Subcommittee on National Security, and as Communication Chair for the House Freedom Caucus.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

Say 'No' to Statehood for Washington, D.C. | Opinion | Opinion