The Anti-Partisan Principle–The Admission of States
I want to make some other observations about what I’m calling the anti-partisan principle before I wrap this up next week and start grading exams.
One perplexing constitutional anomaly is the lack of congressional representation for the District of Columbia. The Twenty-Third Amendment, of course, gave DC the right to choose presidential electors. Another amendment was passed by Congress in the 1970s to give DC congressional representation, but that was not ratified. Many statutes have been proposed to accomplish the same goal, but none have passed. One could imagine a law that admits most of DC as a state so long as some inner core remains to satisfy the requirement that there be a federal district as the seat of government. (Just giving DC voting rights or admitting the whole district as a state may be unconstitutional, even though there is a question about whether that would be justiciable. Can the Supreme Court declare a state illegal?)
Why isn’t DC represented by voting members in Congress today? The answer is that everybody knows that they would all be Democrats. As a result, the GOP blocks any such proposal. The same might well be true if Puerto Rico ever applies for statehood, though that is less clear. Note that this is not true for all state admissions. Most territories do not have a predictable voting pattern when admitted. Indeed, the District of Columbia itself was not clearly aligned when the Twenty-Third Amendment was ratified, which probably explains why the amendment was ratified.
Does this mean that we would think it is fundamentally wrong to admit a state when that admission would benefit only one party? I would say no. If there were five such states at once, though, that would raise legitimate concerns of “state-packing.” We got close to this during Reconstruction. The GOP tried to admit at least two states over President Johnson’s vetoes because they knew they would be represented by Republicans in the Senate, but they only managed to admit one (Nebraska). Indeed, there was even talk of doing this during Johnson’s impeachment trial, as that could have changed the verdict.
More examples of a hypothetical vein tomorrow.