National Republican Party officials and several GOP members of Congress, concerned that their power on Capitol Hill may be diluted if the heavily Democratic District of Columbia should become a state, have been asking D.C. party leaders whether to support the city's bid for statehood.
"I've been telling them to wait and see" what kind of constitutional document the current constitutional convention writes, D.C. Republican State Chairman Robert S. Carter said in an interview yesterday. At best, he said, Congress will "never rush into statehood."
In what amounts to the first signal that D.C. statehood may encounter resistance on Capitol Hill, Carter disclosed the official GOP concern in testimony before a statehood convention committee.
He also told the committee that Republicans would like to see protections for both minority political parties and minority segments of the population built into the proposed constitution for the predominantly Democratic and black District of Columbia.
By minority segments, Carter told a reporter later, "I mean Hispanics, Vietnamese, Koreans and Republicans."
The convention is currently writing a constitution that must be completed by May 29. It then goes to city voters for consideration, probably in this fall's election. If approved there and also by both houses of Congress, statehood would be implemented with the city entitled to two senators and one representative.
Carter said two local Republican Party activists have been assigned to monitor the convention and report to D.C. party officials. He said "bloc power politics"--a reference to news accounts of a racial split and formation of black and white caucuses early in the convention--could detract from "efforts at equality and fairness" in writing the constitution.
Carter said Republicans are concerned about possible dilution of their power in Congress with the addition of up to three Democrats in the Senate and House under D.C. statehood. But the concern is not limited to Republicans, he said.
"The small states may resist," he said. "Conservatives may be opposed to two more liberal Democratic senators from the District being locked into the system. Others are asking if the District of Columbia was ever set up to be a state in the first place."