Skip to main content
Press Release Published:Mar 22, 2021

Comer, Hice: H.R. 51 is an Unconstitutional Power Grab

Cost of D.C. statehood will rest on the backs of American taxpayers

WASHINGTON—House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) and Subcommittee on Government Operations Ranking Member Jody Hice (R-Ga.) opened today’s hearing about D.C. statehood by calling out Democrats’ unconstitutional power grab. The Republicans outlined the unconstitutionality of H.R. 51 and the District’s failure to determine how to make up for the massive budgetary items currently funded by the federal government if it became a state.

In his remarks, Ranking Member Comer outlined the unconstitutionality of H.R. 51, emphasizing the Justice Department has been consistent for 60 years in saying a constitutional amendment is required to make D.C. a state. He called out the Democrats’ for pushing an unconstitutional bill to add two liberal senators to the U.S. Senate and concluded Congress must reject H.R. 51.

In his remarks, Subcommittee Ranking Member Hice underscored D.C. statehood goes against the Founding Fathers’ intent and called out Democrats for prioritizing the citizens of D.C. above all others states because H.R. 51 would grant federal benefits and funds far above that of any other state.

Below are Ranking Member Comer’s remarks as prepared for delivery.

Today’s hearing is all about creating two new Democratic senate seats.

If you don’t believe me, then listen to what our Oversight Committee colleague Jamie Raskin told the Washington Post: “But there’s a national political logic for it, too, because the Senate has become the principal obstacle to social progress across a whole range of issues.”

H.R. 51—D.C. statehood—is plan B of the Democratic Power Grab. Plan A was to eliminate the filibuster in the Senate, but since it appears Joe Manchin isn’t going to play these dirty Democrat games, now Speaker Pelosi is stepping in with an unconstitutional bill to make Washington, D.C.—a city smaller than Columbus, Ohio that just happens to be 90% Democrat—the 51st state.

D.C. statehood is a key part of the radical leftist agenda to reshape America, along with the Green New Deal, defunding the police and packing the Supreme Court.

Many problems exist with H.R. 51.

The first is it’s flatly unconstitutional.  But don’t take my word for it.  Take the word of civil rights champion Robert F. Kennedy, who said sixty years ago that granting D.C. statehood absent a constitutional amendment was “inconceivable” and would produce “an absurdity.”

Take the word of all the Justice Departments from President Kennedy’s to President Obama’s.

Take the word of John Dingell, a liberal titan, the longest serving member of congress who supported every single civil rights measure that passed before congress for 40 years.

Take the word of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, who dismissed what he called “the statehood fallacy.”

Take the word of the former Delegate from D.C., my colleague Eleanor Holmes Norton’s predecessor, who had opposed statehood and recognized the constitutional problem

Take the word of the Democratic-controlled Congress in 1960, which explicitly rejected statehood and instead passed the 23rd Amendment, which gave D.C. three votes in the electoral college.

Democrats even acknowledge the unconstitutionality of the bill by inserting language trying to fix it.  Of course, this language is meaningless, because the only way to fix it is by a constitutional amendment.

The second problem is this bill goes flatly against what the Founding Fathers wanted for our capital city.

The Founding Fathers were smart.  They knew D.C. would grow as large as it is today—they envisioned it to be the size of Paris, which at the time is roughly equivalent to the size of D.C. today.

They envisioned a thriving capital city with residential communities, green space, ports, and close access to America’s leaders. 

The Founding Fathers knew this is what D.C. would become—everything it is today. And they didn’t want it to be a state.  In fact, they overwhelmingly rejected it.

They had other capital options: New York, Philadelphia, Trenton.  Instead, they created D.C.

Every Democrat who supports this bill should be asked one simple question: Is it their contention that the Founders did not anticipate all the arguments that are currently being made for D.C. statehood?

If they believe the Founders did not anticipate the arguments, they are wrong. Alexander Hamilton, in fact, proposed granting representation in the House to the District, and it was rejected while ratifying the Constitution.

If Democrats believe the Founders did anticipate the arguments they are making, they should be asked how we modify the Constitution for any other radical departure from the Founders’ interpretation. The answer is simple—a constitutional amendment.

I will not address the practical negative ramifications of D.C. statehood, but will let my colleague from Georgia present those. And there are many.

Liberal progressives supporting this bill support stealing billions from their very own constituents to send it straight to D.C.

It is no wonder statehood for D.C. is so unpopular.  For years, support for statehood across the country hasn’t even reached 30 percent. Today, well over half of Americans reject D.C. statehood.

The Democrats arrogantly say that’s because the American people don’t understand what statehood means.

But my constituents in Kentucky’s First Congressional District know exactly what it means—consolidating Speaker Pelosi’s power in Washington to enact radical policies that have consistently been rejected by the American people.

The Democrats want you to ignore the issues I’ve addressed, but we aren’t going to let that happen.

If Democrats were serious about D.C. becoming a state, they would introduce a constitutional amendment, like the U.S. Constitution implies must happen in not one, but two places.

But Democrats aren’t serious.  Instead, they are setting aside the Constitution in order to give progressives a quick win so they can achieve their goals of defunding the police and enacting a Green New Deal.

There is zero chance this bill would pass judicial review. The courts know better. 

The Senate knows better.

All of our constituents—who Democrats prefer to call ignorant even though they understand basic civics class—know better. 

H.R. 51 is an unconstitutional and unworkable bill and is rejected by the American people.  Congress must reject this proposal.

Below are Subcommittee Ranking Member Hice’s remarks as prepared for delivery.

This bill is not the answer to voting rights for D.C. 

If D.C. were to become a state, the Founding Fathers recognized it would be first among states. This is because the district where the federal government resides would be reliant on the surrounding state—in this case, the state of D.C.—for security, sewage, water, and other essential needs.  It would require foreign governments to negotiate with that state for

embassies and other international matters.

The Founding Fathers wanted none of this. 

They wanted Congress to have oversight over the District, something Congress must retain to protect federal interests. And, it has worked well for over 230 years.  

It is our duty as Representatives for all Americans to safeguard their capital, but that’s not good enough for the progressives on the left, which leads me to the major practical problems with this bill.

It is written to maximize the benefit to the new state of D.C. while burdening American taxpayers.

The lines of the newly envisioned state of D.C. are completely gerrymandered for maximum tax revenue. They do not include some federal property contiguous with the map, but do include others.  Why did they do this? The answer is simple: Money.

D.C. wants to become a state so it can levy taxes on people working in D.C. This means if you live in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, but work in D.C., your taxes likely are going to go way up. This will result in stolen tax revenue from those states and cripple their economies and their budgets.

Every time an American comes to visit D.C.—for spring break, for summer vacation—and crosses one of its iconic bridges over the Potomac on the way from the airport, they’ll likely have to pay a huge toll.

But it gets worse.

D.C. currently relies on hundreds of millions in federal funding each year. And ,the last time D.C. had full responsibility for its budget, the federal government had to step in and rescue the District from financial ruin.

Currently, the federal government pays for the court system of D.C.  That’s right—one third of D.C.’s entire government is paid for by American taxpayers.

D.C. also currently doesn’t have a prison.  The federal government pays for thousands of D.C. prisoners in the federal system, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

But D.C. doesn’t want to build a prison—for decades the District has rejected a federally funded prison because D.C. officials, including my colleague Eleanor Holmes Norton, have said the city is “too small.” So, under this bill, the federal government would continue to pay for those prisoners, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

D.C. wants to continue to receive their special benefits for schools; for colleges; for roads; and for billions in federally funded pensions—things none of the other 50 states get.

We asked the District government for plans to pay for the likely major budget shortfalls if it were to become a state.  But they didn’t provide any.  Why not?  Because they expect the federal government to continue funding it the way it has for the past 25 year.

So, under this bill, not only would D.C. become a state, but it would be the only state in the entire country to have the federal government pick up billions upon billions of annual expenses.

In other words, anybody supporting this bill as it is written is saying to their constituents, “we think the people living in D.C. are entitled to many more benefits than you are.”

D.C. wants the benefits of a state without actually having to operate like a state.  They want to be treated differently—treated better—than all the other states.

D.C. wants to keep all these special perks plus gain two Democrat U.S. Senators.  This would effectively shift the power to the left-wing progressives to enact their radical agenda Americans have rejected time and again.

Under this bill, D.C. would in fact become first among states, exactly what the Founders sought to avoid.

D.C. would be the only state without an airport; without a car dealership; without a capital city; without a landfill; without even a name of its own; and we could go on and on and on.

Who will be left to provide all of these services while it continues to receive billions of dollars for special programs? The American people.

D.C. statehood would mean a money grab from neighboring states and a power grab in the United States Senate—all done in an impractical and unconstitutional fashion.