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If the House of Representatives and the US Senate ever pass a bill duly signed by the President creating a new state out of Washington DC can it be held as unconstitutional as it is required by the US constitution to have the federal government in a region which is not governed by any state. I do understand that the proposed state would leave all the buildings such as Congress inside a federal land which will be excluded from the state, but who is to decide the borders of such a land? The constitution does not spell that out as far as I know and this leaves open to a potential supreme court case on the creation of a DC state if it ever happens?

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    Where in the constitution is this spelled out? "required by the US constitution to have the federal government in a region which is not governed by any state" – Jeff Lambert Jul 29 at 19:36
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    @JeffLambert Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 gives Congress "exclusive" power over the district: "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 the Government of the United States" Making the District of Columbia a state would directly violate that clause. – Just Me Jul 29 at 19:53
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    Would it? I don't know, I'm not a lawyer, and I don't believe there has been any actual legal review of that clause, so that sounds like conjecture. A different reading from yours can easily interpret that clause to mean something solely related to the creation of the district. That clause continues: "and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be", implying that the seat of the federal government actually lies within the boundaries of a state. – Jeff Lambert Jul 29 at 19:57
  • @JeffLambert But the District of Columbia is NOT land "purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be". If carving up land to gain political advantage is OK, then it's OK to carve up California and New York into two urban states around New York City and LA/San Francisco and make the rest of the land into 4-5 rural states.... While we're at it, split Oregon and Washington too - I bet those rural eastern parts of the state don't vote like Portland and Seattle do... – Just Me Jul 29 at 20:02
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    @JustMe It is OK to carve up states. You just need the consent of the legislature of the state(s) involved and of Congress. See Article IV Section 3. – Jeff Lambert Jul 29 at 20:08
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Probably not, but this will likely end up in the Supreme Court.

Under Article I, Section 8.17, Congress can decide the borders of the District of Columbia, up to 10 miles square (or 100 square miles). At the moment, the District is around 68 square miles, so it's already below the maximum allowed size. Also, under Article IV, Section 3.1, Congress can admit new states into the union.

However, there will be an issue (political, rather than legal) with respect to the 23rd Amendment, which gives the District of Columbia its 3 votes in the Electoral College. If it's intended that the new seat of government would have very few people living in it, it would be seen as unfair for this district to still have its electoral votes.

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    Do you mean to say that DC's electoral votes may be stripped? Why? – Schwarz Kugelblitz Jul 29 at 21:40
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    @SchwarzKugelblitz In this scenario, Washington DC would be split into 2 separate parts: a US State, and a much smaller Federal District which would have very few residents. The new new state would receive electoral votes in the normal way (1 each per Senator and Representative), but the it wouldn't make sense for the tiny remaining district to retain its special Electoral votes, in addition to the votes given to the new DC state – divibisan Jul 29 at 22:04
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    Do you have a reason to think it's likely to end up in the Supreme Court, other than the fact that pretty much everything results in a partisan lawsuit nowadays? Is there a particular reason to expect that Congress couldn't deal with that issue in the legislation? – divibisan Jul 29 at 22:08
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    @divibisan There's no provision in the Constitution for reverting the District of Columbia into a new state. The 10th Amendment states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." The government is limited by that. If the true purpose of making DC a state was really to address its residents' lack of representation, returning all but a central district to Maryland would solve the problem. – Just Me Jul 29 at 23:00
  • What part are you saying will end up in the Supreme Court? As it stands, you said "it's fine" and "there's an issue with the electors." – Azor Ahai -- he him Jul 30 at 20:15
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Can Congress meet within a state?

Congress can meet wherever it wants. Let's start with the relevant excerpt of the Constitution:

The Congress shall have Power...

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 the Government of the United States

Note the word "may." There's no requirement for this District to be the seat of government. Congress is given the authority over such a District if it exists. So could the capital be located inside of a state? Definitely. How do I know this? Because the capital of the United States was located outside of DC for about a decade after the Constitution was written.

How can they determine the boundaries of federal land?

The federal government owns land in Washington DC, but most of the District is privately owned (including my house). Here's a map from the Washington Post:

Map of federal lands in Washington DC

If a federal district were carved out of the state of DC, it would most likely consist of the green portion just below the word "Washington." That includes the White House, Capitol, National Mall, federal memorials, and other federal resources. The light green part at the very bottom is a military base, so that'll stay under federal control no matter what.

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Its complicated... the US constitution is a bit vague. The establishment clause permitted (but did not require) creation of a federal district, but it was conditional on states cedeing (relinquishing control) of the land to create it. The constitution doesn't say anything about reversing the process, so the constitutionality of it has been subject to heavy debate

A somewhat different approach of "uncedeing" the land back to Maryland has historical (but not legal) precedent: originally the district was composed of two counties: Alexandria and Washington. Alexandria County DC was re-absorbed into Virginia, in a process more precisely referred to as retrocession, to make Arlington County VA. But the constitutionality of that hasn't been decided, the Supreme Court avoided making a ruling on it.

Such a retrocession would could take care of the "taxation without representation" concerns, but would be unlikely to satisfy statehood proponents, who want not only the one voting congressional delegate, but two additional senators beyond the two senators Maryland has. That obviously didn't happen for the residents of modern Arlington County, VA.

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As the constitution doesn't specify the geographic boundaries (other than max area) of the federal district, I believe there would be little issue reducing the size or even changing the location of the district.

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