For the Founding Fathers, denying Washington D.C. statehood was a matter of compromise and balance. After the Civil War and Reconstruction, recalcitrant Southerners denied the district any self-government out of prejudice. In the modern era, the chief barriers to D.C. statehood are constitutional and political. Per The Wall Street Journal, the Constitution allows for new states to be created by an act of Congress with almost no restrictions. D.C. is more populous than two existing states and has clearly expressed its desire for statehood. But some, such as The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby, have argued that given the Constitution’s provision for a federal district as the nation’s capital, changing D.C.’s status would require a new constitutional amendment. Others have said that the 23rd Amendment, which granted D.C. its three electoral votes, would need to be repealed to remove floating votes in the Electoral College.
Statehood campaigners and constitutional scholars have made persuasive counterarguments that congressional approval is enough, but their facts haven’t beaten back political opposition. While D.C. statehood was once an issue with support on both sides of the aisle, the Republican Party has become almost unanimously opposed to D.C. statehood. The reason? D.C. has long been a majority-Democratic voting bloc, which would likely send Democrats to Congress. Mitch McConnell allegedly used the specter of D.C. statehood and a permanent Democratic majority as reasons to protect GOP control of the Senate by acquitting Donald Trump in 2019 (per The Atlantic).