This week, the House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 51, a bill admitting Washington, D.C. as the 51st state. This bill is flatly unconstitutional and would be tied up in the court system for years, creating confusion until its inevitable defeat.
Given its unique constitutional status, the federal city of Washington, D.C., can only become a state upon ratification of a constitutional amendment.
This is not the first time D.C. has tried to become a state. In 1960, the Democrat-controlled House rejected statehood for the district. They instead settled on the 23rd Amendment, granting it votes in the Electoral College — which is now the principal constitutional obstacle for statehood.
Congress rejected statehood again in 1993, with current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer voting no. Last year, the House passed a bill granting D.C. statehood, but that measure was also unconstitutional. Wisely, the Senate never considered it.
The factors mitigating against past statehood attempts have not changed. Due to the 23rd Amendment, they have only become more complex. If Congress granted D.C. statehood and the 23rd Amendment were not repealed, the downsized federal district would still have three Electoral College votes.
Congress could then grant these votes in whatever manner it saw fit: perhaps to the First Family, who would likely be the only residents in the federal district, which would give them the same amount of say in the presidential election as the state of Vermont; directly assign them to the presidential candidate who aligns with whatever party controls Congress; or simply not assign them at all, in direct violation of the 23rd Amendment and creating a constitutional crisis.