A Constitutional Amendment for Statehood?

A new House Joint Resolution has been proposed.

H.J.Res. 42 would introduce “an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to provide that a new State may only be admitted into the Union upon a vote of two-thirds of each House of Congress.”

The resolution was introduced by Tom McClintock (R-CA). It currently has four co-sponosrs:

  • Jeff Duncan (R-SC)
  • Ashley Hinson (R-IA)
  • Barry Moore (R-AL)
  • Tom Rice [R-SC)

McClintock explained his motivation in a tweet: ““The attempt to create a state from the District of Columbia is a brazen abuse of power with the obvious intention to pack the U.S. Senate. I introduced H.J. Res. 42, a constitutional amendment to require a 2/3 vote for the admission of states. Such reform would assure that new states are only created with bi-partisan consensus.”

What does it take to admit a state now?

The Constitution makes one simple statement about the formation and admission of States:

New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.(Article IV)

In sum, Congress can admit a new State into the Union as long as there is no question about the borders of that State conflicting with those of another State. This has always been understood to mean that a simple majority vote in Congress is enough to admit a State.

The two most recent States, Alaska and Hawaii, were admitted by simple votes in Congress. Hawaii had a two-thirds majority in both houses, but Alaska did not. Alaska was admitted with 56% of the vote.

Why could a constitutional amendment be required?

May Republicans claim that the admission of D.C. or Puerto Rico would be done with the intention of adding Democratic representatives to Congress. This claim has been made in spite of the fact that Puerto Rico does not actually consistently vote for Democrats, and that statehood for Puerto Rico has always been a bipartisan position.

No territory has yet requested statehood and been refused. The progress from territory to State is a normal part of American history.

The effort to include Puerto Rico in the demand for a constitutional amendment is specifically in response to the belief that the two prospective States under consideration would both be partisan picks.

Are States ever admitted for partisan reasons?

In a word, yes. States have been admitted specifically because they were expected to support a Republican, a Democrat, or even a Whig many, many times in American history. There is no controversy on this point.

Since the Civil War, it has become customary to admit States in pairs: Republican and Democratic. (Before and during the Civil War it was customary to admit pairs of States according to whether slavery would be legal in the State or not.)

Alaska was admitted with the understanding that it would be a Democratic State, and paired with Hawaii, which was expected to be a Republican State. The opposite has actually taken place. Other States have also changed their party allegiance over time.

One Comment

randerson43

There is no legitimate reason to change the voting requirements for statehood acceptance. This is a clear effort for the Republican to try and influence the political direction of any territory requesting statehood status. Puerto Rico, as an example is very bi-partisan. The Republican and Democratic parties are very active in the actions of the Island and i believe those same types of action would carry forth if Puerto Rico were admitted into the union. I do fervently that for this to happen there must be at least a two-thirds majority in favor of statehood. A simple majority is not an acceptable number.

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