By Dave Andrusko
While it came as no surprise, House Democrats voted in lockstep today to pass a bill that (as NRLC accurately described it) “purports to grant statehood to the District of Columbia.” The vote on H.R. 51 was 216-208 (several Members were not present to vote).
If passed in the Senate, the bill would create a new state with two senators and one representative. It would also trigger a massive challenge on constitutional grounds.
“San Francisco will never vote Republican but will do so before D.C. does,” conservative columnist George Will said in a op-ed that appeared yesterday in The Washington Post . “Does anyone believe that if D.C. were as incorrigibly Republican as it is Democratic, Democrats would favor D.C. statehood, which would mean two more Republican senators until the last trumpet shall sound?”
As a single-issue organization, National Right to Life wrote the House in opposition because “If H.R. 51 were to take effect, the predictable result will be tax funding of hundreds (if not more) of elective abortions in D.C. annually.”
The following is the letter NRLC sent to the House prior to today’s vote [www.nrlc.org/federal/ahc/nrlc-letter-to-u-s-representatives-urging-opposition-to-h-r-51-d-c-statehood].
This week, the House will consider H.R. 51 which purports to grant statehood to the District of Columbia. National Right to Life urges you to oppose the bill and reserves the right to include a House roll call on this measure in our scorecard of key pro-life votes of the 117th Congress.
Article I of the U.S. Constitution says that Congress holds complete legislative authority over the District of Columbia (“exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever”). That is why the entire budget for the District of Columbia (including revenues generated by local sources) is and has been appropriated by Congress through an annual appropriations bill.
The Dornan Amendment, or the “D.C. Hyde Amendment,” prohibits the use of government funds to pay for abortion in the Federal District (except to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest). For decades (with brief interruptions), this policy has been part of the annual appropriations bill that covers the District.
In 2009, Democrats succeeded in temporarily repealing the amendment for a period of 2 years. During that time, taxpayers were known to have paid for at least 300 abortions in Washington, D.C.
If H.R. 51 were to take effect, the predictable result will be tax funding of hundreds (if not more) of elective abortions in D.C. annually.
In general terms, the Hyde Amendment has long prohibited direct federal funding of abortion (with narrow exceptions) in the numerous federal programs, including Medicaid. However, a minority of states (15) use state dollars to fund elective abortion for Medicaid recipients. Should D.C. gain statehood, we would expect it to quickly join these states in paying for elective abortion.
Further, setting aside the abortion implications of H.R. 51, it is unlikely that Congress can make D.C. a state without a constitutional amendment. Justice Departments under both Democratic and Republican administrations have consistently (and nearly universally) agreed that statehood for D.C. cannot be accomplished by a simple majority vote in Congress. Congress has only those powers that are enumerated in the Constitution, mainly in Article I, section 8, and Congress has no power to create a fifty-first state from the present District of Columbia. Additionally, per Article IV, Section 3, it is likely that Maryland would need to agree separately that the land it originally ceded to create the District could now become a separate state.
Thank you for your consideration of NRLC’s position on this matter.