Congress Blocks DC Voters From Passing Law They Wanted

Congress Blocks DC Voters From Passing Law They Wanted

( – Over 230 years ago, the United States Constitution enshrined Washington, DC, as the nation’s capital. As such, the city serves as the nation’s seat of government. The founders never intended the city to resemble a state because the federal government is a unique sovereign entity. They also wanted to ensure that a single state could never control the federal government or use its infrastructure as a political weapon against it.

For the vast majority of the city’s lifespan, Congress ran the city. In 1973, Congress passed the Home Rule Act for the district, creating a mayor and city council. Still, Congress must sign off on all city legislation, regulations, and budgets before they go into effect. Now, some say that Congress overrode the wishes of DC voters who recently made recreational marijuana legal in the district.

Congress Overrides Legalizing Marijuana in DC

On Thursday, March 10, Republicans attached a rider to the $1.5 trillion 2022 omnibus spending bill that overrode DC voters’ wishes to legalize recreational marijuana. Democrats attempted to eliminate it, yet Republicans promised a battle over the provision. Undesirious to stall the budget any longer over pot, Democrats reluctantly gave in and kept the rider in place. If the 2022 spending bill had failed to pass Congress, it would have shut down the federal government.

Advocates of the marijuana measure said Congress overrode two-thirds of DC voters who passed the measure last November. Yet, proponents of the effort against legalizing marijuana could argue that DC would be setting a standard doomed to fail in federal court.

Currently, marijuana usage is still against federal law despite 18 states having legalized the drug for recreational use. If DC were allowed to break federal law, it could have more far-reaching effects. Plaintiffs in other cases might then have a successful argument that raises a question: If the courts allowed Congress to break its own law, what would stop DC, or any other state for that matter, from attempting to violate other federal laws they disagreed with?

Is This Why DC Residents Want Statehood?

This issue is one example of why residents of Washington, DC, want statehood. Still, there are Constitutional questions about statehood for the nation’s capital. Among them is Article IV of the US Constitution. It clearly states that a new state cannot form out of any existing land belonging to a sovereign entity. As such, Washington, DC, is unlikely to ever get statehood without changing the US Constitution.

So, did Congress override the wishes of voters?

Yes, it did. If DC voters don’t like Congress determining the rules, they can leave for a sovereign entity like Virginia or Maryland. It’s important to remember that the framers never envisioned Washington to be a city of 700,000 people. They meant it to serve as a small, transient city where the nation’s work gets done on behalf of the American people.

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