We are living in divisive times, but President Joe Biden wants to bring unity. For this, I want to support a plan that will give all Americans fair representation and autonomy without being a partisan power-grab, like what occurred under the past few administrations (of both parties).
First, every American citizen deserves the right to vote for president, as the decisions of the president affect us all. Puerto Rico voted for statehood, and as it has been a territory for over a century, statehood is desperately needed. They would likely get five House seats, but three of those would likely come from Democratic states, for a net gain of two seats assuming they stay solidly Democrat, which I predict will change to become more even if they were given statehood.
Next, the District of Columbia. This is a different situation, as the only reason it is no longer part of Maryland was to create the federal capital. So, if it ceases to be a federal district the best solution would be return to Maryland, or, if that fails, become part of another state with the consent of the people of the district via referendum and of the receiving state through means decided by its legislature. This would almost certainly be a net gain for Democrats in the House. But, it would be partially countered by the three federal district votes of the 23rd Amendment being redirected by Congress to one each for the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and a joint vote of Guam and the Northern Marianas, potentially making 2024 the first election in American history where all Americans can vote.
These territories have not wanted statehood in the past, and their wishes should be respected. Their votes would be easier to swing to small-government ideas, given that the territories’ entire economies aren’t reliant on federal bureaucracy. The Senate will expand to 102 members, with 62 required to override a filibuster and 68 for a veto, statistically lowering the chances of controversial legislation passing, which would be the biggest GOP gain.
The judiciary has also been a major issue for Republican voters historically. The Constitution and its interpretation are some of the most important issues in our republic, and they have served to temper our worst tendencies as a people, such as when Brown v. Board of Education desegregated our schools. However, not all constitutional issues are that stark, and there are many valid disagreements over its meaning. Much of the polarization of the judiciary in my opinion comes from the Supreme Court resolving circuit splits that don’t need to be resolved for the functioning of the nation and are widely disputed among the people and even our judges.
For this, I propose that Biden create a new convention of only nominating circuit court judges after gaining the approval of a majority of senators of the circuit, allowing U.S. circuits to evolve regional styles of constitutional interpretation. He could also work with Congress to make a Native American circuit court that tribes could opt into, with judges approved by a committee appointed by tribes before nomination. This court would be an important step in protecting the many treaties with native nations made and broken over the centuries. He should also consider appointing a Supreme Court justice that supports keeping circuit splits in controversial cases if one of the existing justices retires or dies.
Perhaps the biggest challenge to our democracy today is security of the government, but that could also be a great opportunity for reshaping it. When the residential area of D.C. leaves federal control, the federal government administration as well as Congress should be decentralized. With Biden’s plan for high speed rail, Congress could be all across the country and not stuck in D.C. as in the days of travel by horse. The agriculture committee belongs in the Midwest or the Mississippi Delta, not D.C. The transportation committee should be in Detroit. Healthcare in Hartford to compensate for the loss of insurance jobs from Medicare for All under a future administration or veto override! Education, at an HBCU and a tribal college to truly mark the shift of Congress from white male property owners to representing all of us.
Since most congressional work occurs in committees, moving the committees would lead to Congress meeting a more diverse group of people, and the cost of living in D.C. would no longer be a factor in internships, as well as the lobbying industry dispersing across the country, with its contributions to the restaurant industry helping small businesses everywhere. As Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of our Constitution states: “To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of Government of the United States.” If 10 miles square refers to 100 square miles in modern times, Congress could redefine the district to encompass land across the country.