Like an expanding territorial blob, Maryland should absorb the outer residential areas of the District of Columbia, says a Utah congressman who strongly opposes D.C. statehood.
During the Obama presidency, D.C. residents intensified their push for statehood and real representation in Congress, even earning an endorsement of the idea from the president himself and later voting for statehood. Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah has long opposed that idea, and according to his testimony from a hearing yesterday, he would rather have the Free State absorb parts of the District than make it the 51st state.
The suggestion was first reported by The Washington Post. Rep. Chaffetz, chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said yesterday at a hearing, “I really would love to explore the idea of retroceding the residential areas into Maryland, so that not only do you have a member of Congress, but you have two senators, a state legislature, a governor. If you want full representation, I’m very sympathetic to that, and I think there’s actually a way to do that.”
It was difficult to tell if he was kidding. Chaffetz was smiling but sounded completely serious. He has proposed such a handoff of territory from the nation’s capital to Maryland before.
Unfortunately, the camera didn’t pan to the faces of Maryland Reps. Elijah Cummings and Jamie Raskin, both of whom are members of the committee. However, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton did chime in. Since 1991, Norton has served in the noble position of representing D.C. in Congress without getting to actually vote for the city’s residents.
“Has the chairman ever asked anybody from the State of Maryland how they feel about that?” she asked, eliciting laughter from the room. (Chaffetz said he had.)
Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia pointedly noted that while that idea might be popular among Republican lawmakers, “there’s that sort of nasty little problem of the will of people of the District of Columbia and…the state of Maryland.”
Chaffetz didn’t seem to understand. “Why would they not want to do this?” he asked. Connolly responded that Chaffetz could either advocate for a referendum across Maryland to do so or agree that Congress should “keep our noses out of their business and give them the autonomy they deserve.”
Chaffetz helped lead a push in the House last year that successfully overturned a 2013 D.C. ballot measure that would have let the District spend its own money without congressional approval. More recently, he and other members of his Republican-majority committee have added into their two-year oversight plan for the executive branch that Congress should be able to review policymaking by D.C.’s government and further involve itself in municipal decisions by the city.
Chaffetz fielded his retrocession idea after Norton proposed an amendment to block that stipulation to let Congress meddle with D.C. affairs, according to DCist.
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