George Will

WASHINGTON -- One answer is: Six rows of stars -- the top, third and fifth rows with nine, the second, fourth and sixth rows with eight. The question is: How might the nation reconfigure its flag to acknowledge a 51st state. Or "state."

The question is pertinent, or would be were Congress inclined to adhere to the Constitution. Both the House and Senate are moving toward pretending, as part of a disgraceful bargain with Utah, that the District of Columbia is a state.

The D.C. House Voting Rights Act will give the District a full voting member in the House of Representatives. The problem is, or should be, that although the Constitution has provisions that allow various interpretations, the following is not one of those provisions: The House shall be composed of members chosen "by the people of the several states."

But the District is not a state. It is (as the Constitution says in Article I, Section 8) "the seat of the government of the United States." That is why, in 1978, the District's advocates sent to the states a constitutional amendment requiring that "for purposes of representation" the district would be "treated as though it were a state." Only 16 states ratified it, 22 short of the required number. So the District's advocates decided that an amendment is unnecessary -- a statute will suffice because the Constitution empowers Congress "to exercise exclusive legislation" over the District. They argue that this power can be used to, in effect, amend the Constitution by nullifying Article I, Section 2's requirement that House members come from "the several states." This argument, that Congress' legislative power trumps the Constitution, means that Congress could establish religion, abridge freedom of speech and of the press and abolish the right of peaceful assembly in the District.

And, of course, Congress next could give the District two senators. Which probably is the main objective of the Democrats who are most of the supporters of this end run around the Constitution. In the 12 elections since the District acquired, by constitutional amendment, the right to allocate presidential electoral votes, it has never cast less than 74.8 percent of its popular vote for the Democratic presidential candidate. That amendment, the 23rd, stipulates that the District shall allocate the number of electoral votes to which it would be entitled "if it were a state." If.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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