Two key members of the House District Appropriations subcommittee said yesterday that they doubt that the District of Columbia can or should be granted statehood sought by the current D.C. constitutional convention.
Committee chairman Julian C. Dixon (D-Calif.) told reporters after a committee meeting with three convention members that statehood "doesn't stand a good chance of passing Congress at this point in time."
And Rep. Lawrence Coughlin (Pa.), ranking Republican member of the committee, told the reporters that he "would not support" statehood.
Statehood convention president Charles I. Cassell and convention delegates Hilda Mason and Charles Mason were called before the Dixon subcommittee to discuss a proposed $100,000 appropriation to help promote statehood in the next fiscal year, and another $50,000 to study the transfer of federal authority and functions if the city should attain statehood.
The meeting, part of routine congressional review of all city appropriations, was brief and courteous.
Coughlin, asked by reporters later, said he opposes statehood. Giving the District of Columbia two senators, he said, would be "imbalancing" and "disproportionate."
Also, he said, the statehood campaign contains a "built-in conflict of interest."
"The District of Columbia is essentially the federal government now, and (with the statehood campaign) you have a situation of the District lobbying for more federal government (representation)," he asserted.
Dixon, viewed generally as a friend of the District, would not say whether he favors statehood.
But he said that "my personal opinion is it doesn't stand a good chance," referring to the conservative mood of Congress.
Echoing earlier warnings by D.C. congressional delegate Walter E. Fauntroy and city council chairman Arrington Dixon, he said chances could improve if "the kind of constitution that comes out of the convention follows the traditional constitutions...of other states...If it is totally different or foreign in format, it will have less chance."
The convention, rushing to meet a May 29 deadline, has completed a preamble and judiciary and executive articles. Much remains, with delegates wrangling over whether to include experimental and "radical" provisions or keep the document orthodox.