Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1 of the US Constitution states: “New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State 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.”
The restrictions on admitting states had a twofold intent. On the one hand, several states had claims to western territories (Virginia, Connecticut, Georgia, and North Carolina) and this clause allowed them to choose whether they remained in the state. The other purpose of this restriction was driven by factional party divisions who sought to retain the political power afforded to states, namely two Senators and Electoral College votes. If western states were able to subdivide (there is a plan to split Texas into five states and California into three) then the political power of some of the smaller states would be eroded as these populous regions would gain not only power in the House based on their population but also Senators.
Generally, when the people of a territory or a region a sufficient population and make desire statehood known to the federal government, Congress passed an enabling act authorizing the people of that territory to frame a state constitution and petition for admission to the Union. So why do we argue about the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico achieving statehood? The District of Columbia was excised from Maryland and Virginia in 1790, and for those of you who may be geographically challenged, Puerto Rico is still an island. 😊
Go back to that last caveat to statehood. The main reason the petitions by Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia for statehood have been sidelined is that granting statehood to these districts would deny power to the minority party in power. We make a big deal about presidents who have been elected without receiving a majority of the popular vote (John Quincy Adams, Rutherford Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, George W Bush, and Donald Trump – clearly not our greatest Americans!) but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is embedded in the Connecticut Compromise that created a bicameral legislature for our nation. Small states get the same two votes as big states in issues like Supreme Court appointments, Treaty Ratification, and admission of other states to the union. Yes, these are rare events but they have long lasting ramifications. Admitting DC and Puerto Rico to the Union adds four Senators who might not fall in line with the Senate Majority that represents a minority of the American People.
Meanwhile, this lack of equal status of our two COLONIAL territories, districts where the population is subject to the laws and demands of the nation but has no voice in crafting those laws, means that every disaster that befalls Puerto Rico from hurricanes to Pfizer shareholders, must be delt with internally while tribute in the form of regulation and taxes goes to Congress. The District of Columbia has no say in their internal affairs and like Boston in 1768 must quarter troops in the form of National Guardsmen from other states who don’t answer to the local civilian administration but rather a national tyrant.
Let’s stop talking about “packing” the Senate and the courts, they are already packed and the packing material smells foul!