(UnitedVoice.com) – Washington, DC, is perhaps the most unique city in America. Not only is the town the seat of the federal government, but it also hosts numerous Smithsonian Museums, memorials, and landmark sights. For centuries, many DC residents have been unhappy with their relationship and Congress. They argue the legislative body that oversees their well-being doesn’t truly represent them the way members do their states.
There’s much truth to that because of how the founders established Washington, DC, in the US Constitution. Once again, controversy is popping up over how Congress governs the city. On Thursday, March 10, Congress passed the 2022 federal budget known as the Omnibus bill. Attached to it was a Republican rider overturning voters’ wishes to legalize marijuana in the district.
Democrats Agree to Rider to Avoid Government Shutdown
Each September, the Constitution mandates Congress must pass a federal budget. Known as an omnibus bill, Democrats repeatedly delayed passing the 2022 version as they worked feverishly to pass their far-left Build Back Better agenda instead. Ultimately, that legislation failed by one vote, thanks to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). To prevent the government from shutting down along the way, Democrats passed several short-term spending bills, keeping the government doors open.
On Thursday, Congress finally passed a full 2022 federal budget lasting through September. During the negotiation process, Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) attached a rider to the legislation that garnered the support of the entire Republican caucus. He wanted Congress to override the wishes of local voters allowing for legal recreational marijuana. Ultimately, Democrats reluctantly agreed to the rider to keep the government from closing over the measure.
In the 1980s, First Lady Nancy Reagan helped create the war against drugs. Forty years later, many say that it failed. Eighteen states have passed recreational marijuana laws. The federal government still recognizes marijuana as illegal.
The DC council expressed their unhappiness with Congress’ decision, but there isn’t anything they could do to change the outcome.
Congress Constitutionally Oversees Washington, DC
Washington, DC, is not a state. It’s federal land designated to serve as the seat of the federal government. In 1973, Congress authorized a mayor and city council in Washington, DC, for the first time in the nation’s history. Though they manage the day-to-day affairs of the city, Congress must sign off on all city council legislation, regulations, and budgets.
Over the last several decades, DC residents and Democrats alleged Congress disenfranchised citizens because they have no ties to a state. Yet, that argument doesn’t hold water. The founders never intended for DC to be a state. They created it as a separate sovereign entity untangled and unwebbed from any state’s politics. So, if voters in DC don’t like Congress overseeing them, they have a choice. They can move to nearby Virginia or Maryland.
Even if Congress gave DC statehood, it would likely fail in the courts. Article IV of the Constitution says the federal government cannot create a state from an existing sovereign entity — like another state or the District of Columbia.
The measure overturning voter wishes is unlikely to garner any new momentum in the DC statehood debate. Too many Congress members are focused on the issue or don’t support the idea. So, for now, recreational marijuana use remains illegal in the nation’s capital.
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