Nearly 40 constitutional law scholars wrote to Congressional leaders that there is nothing in the Constitution that would prevent D.C. becoming the 51st state. (Screenshot/ Courtesy Photo)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. and Digital Content Editor
mgreen@afro.com

Nearly 40 constitutional law scholars wrote to Congressional leaders Saturday to explain that there is nothing in the United States Constitution preventing the nation’s capital from becoming the 51st state. 

“There is no constitutional barrier to the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth (the ‘Commonwealth’) entering the Union through a joint resolution, pursuant to the Constitution’s Admissions Clause, just like the 37 other states that have been admitted since the Constitution was adopted.  Furthermore, Congress’s exercise of its express constitutional authority to decide to admire a new state is a classic political question, which courts are highly unlikely to interfere with, let alone attempt to bar,” 39 constitutional law scholars wrote.

Some of the letter’s authors included constitutional law scholars from Georgetown University Law Center, Columbia Law School, Harvard Law School, University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, Cornell Law School, Stanford Law School, Northwestern University, Duke University School of Law, University of Virginia, University of Chicago Law School, American University Washington College of Law, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and University of California, Berkeley School of Law, among others.

The constitutional law scholars noted that on April 22 the House passed H.R. 51, an Act appropriately titled to represent the District’s desire to become 51st state in the Union and that leaders are currently considering companion legislation in the Senate.  In the 51st State legislation, D.C., would join the Union, while the Capital itself would remain under federal jurisdiction as the nation’s seat of government.  

According to the scholars, H.R. 51 also “repeals the provision of federal law that establishes the current mechanisms for District residents to participate in presidential elections, pursuant to Congress’s authority under the Twenty-Third Amendment; and provides for expedited consideration of the repeal of that Amendment.

In examining the Admissions Clause of the Constitution, the constitutional law scholars confirmed Congress has authority to admit Washington, Douglass Commonwealth into the Union.  According to the Constitution’s Admission Clause (Art. IV. Sect. 3), “New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union.”

According to a letter written to Congressional leaders from nearly 40 constitutional law scholars, there is nothing in the Constitution preventing D.C. from becoming the 51st state. (Screenshot)

Moreover, the constitutional law scholars warned against opponents of D.C. Statehood filing a lawsuit.  

“But any court challenge will be without merit, and indeed likely will be dismissed as presenting a political question,” the constitutional law scholars wrote. “We respectfully submit that Congress should not avoid exercising its express constitutional authority to admit the Commonwealth into the Union because of meritless threats of litigation.”  

While D.C. Mayor Bowser posted the letter on Twitter lauding its authors calling them, “40 prominent constitutional law scholars,”  some social media users took the Tweet as a moment to express displeasure with the nation’s capital becoming the 51st state.

“Wonderful, I am sure we can find 40 more prominent scholars saying just the opposite.  You do not deserve to be a state,” wrote one Twitter user replying to the Mayor’s tweet.

“Then these aren’t constitutional scholars, but instead people bad at their job/ research,” another person Tweeted in response to the Mayor’s post of the letter. 

Despite some of the opposition found on social media, Senate Majority Leader Charles (Chuck) Schumer showed full support for D.C. Statehood on the Senate floor on May 25.

“The District of Columbia has more residents than Vermont and Wyoming, and nearly the same number as Delaware, Alaska and several other states.  They have all the same obligations of citizenship- D.C. residents pay federal taxes; they can be summoned for juries; they have served in every war since the Revolution.  But they are all denied real representation here in Congress,” Schumer said.  “D.C. Statehood is an idea whose time has come.”

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Micha Green

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor