Mar 06, 2019

District of Columbia: Lawmakers Throw Support Behind A Potential Legislation Granting Statehood to Washington, D.C.

Last Thursday [28 March 2019], 29 senators introduced the Washington, D.C. Admission act, a bill that would finally give Washington residents full representation in Congress. In 1993, the previous vote on D.C. statehood was  defeated. However, current representatives including presidential hopefuls such as Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren co-sponsored Carper’s new legislation, which is a significant step in the quest for equality.

The article below was published by US News

Support for granting statehood to Washington, D.C. is growing as more lawmakers endorse legislation that would give residents in the nation's capital full voting rights.

The Washington, D.C. Admission Act – legislation that would make the district the 51st state in the United States – was re-introduced Feb. 28 by 29 senators. The bill was introduced by Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware and co-sponsored by several presidential hopefuls as well as Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia, a Democrat who had previously opposed the move.

Democratic Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district's nonvoting representative, introduced the House version of the statehood bill in January. The House bill – identical to the Senate version – has a record 198 co-sponsors, including Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (Norton has introduced the measure several times previously.)

The legislation would give Washington residents full representation in Congress and designate the areas surrounding the White House, the Capitol, the Supreme Court and the National Mall as the seat of the federal government, according to Carper's Website. That area would be called the District of Columbia and remain under the control of Congress.

"The Senate re-introduction of the Washington, DC Admission Act is an important step in the march toward full equality for the residents of Washington, DC," Bo Shuff, executive director of DC Vote, a national organization pushing for the district's statehood, said in a statement. "The record level of support ... shows that DC Statehood has become a mainstream issue for people across the country."

Washington has a population of 702,455, greater than the states of Wyoming and Vermont. Residents also pay more than $26 Billion in federal taxes, which is more than people pay in 22 states. The district is also heavily Democratic, with 90 percent of voters favoring Hillary Clinton for president in 2016.

"We are grateful to Senator Tom Carper for his tremendous leadership and for being our staunch ally in the Senate," Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, said in a statement. "DC is not asking for a handout; we are demanding our fundamental rights as American citizens."

Some Republicans oppose statehood because they're worried Washington would elect Democrats to Congress. Other critics are strict constitutionalists who believe the federal government should have complete control of the city where the capital lies.

Now that Sen.Warner of Virginia has thrown his support behind statehood for the district, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland is the only Democratic federal lawmaker in the greater Washington region who has not publically supported the move.

In 1993, the last time the House voted on statehood, it was defeated 277 to 153, with support from only 60 percent of Democrats and one Republican. At the time, Democrats from Virginia and Maryland opposed statehood out of concern the district would impose commuter taxes on their residents, according to Roll call.

Several presidential hopefuls co-sponsored Carper's bill, including Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Despite Democratic control of the House and high-profile politicians throwing their support behind the bill, the chance of the district gaining statehood is slim as long as Republicans hold the majority in the Senate.


Photo courtesy: Flickr