Washington, D.C.’s bid for statehood got a congressional hearing on Monday, but the starkly partisan issue is far from settled.
Republicans accused Democrats of a cynical power play and insisted that Congress doesn’t have the constitutional right to grant statehood to D.C.
Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser argued that Washington’s lack of representation in Congress was “one of the remaining glaring civil rights issues of our time.”
Statehood would give D.C. two senators and a fully voting member of the House. The District historically votes Democratic.
“We dare to believe that D.C. statehood is on the horizon,” said the District’s Democratic nonvoting delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, who wrote the statehood bill under consideration.
Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, a committee member, noted that D.C. would immediately become the blackest state in the country at 46 percent. “D.C. statehood is a racial justice issue,” she said.
Republicans relied heavily on the testimony of Zack Smith, a legal fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Smith testified that while Congress does have the authority to admit new states, this authority would be irrelevant in the unique case of Washington since the federal district was described and created in Article 1 of the Constitution itself.
Therefore, Smith argued, the normal congressional route to statehood is invalid and can only be achieved through a constitutional amendment.
“No other state owes its existence to a provision of the Constitution. No other state is in this unique position of the District of Columbia,” he said.
Smith also argued that the Founding Fathers never wanted statehood for D.C. and always intended it to be a federal district under congressional oversight “to preserve the safety and security of the federal government.”
Multiple Republican legislators mentioned the idea of retrocession — a proposal whereby most of the District would be absorbed into Maryland. Bowser and Norton said that neither residents of Washington nor Maryland were interested in that possibility.
Supporters of D.C. statehood point out that its population is larger than that of Wyoming or Vermont and that its 712,000 residents pay federal taxes, vote for president and serve in the armed forces, but have no voting representation in Congress.
“All we are asking of you is to correct an anomaly of our history,” Bowser told the committee.
Norton claims she has enough supporters to easily get the bill through the House, and it would squeak through the Senate if no Democrats break ranks and the vote falls along purely partisan lines.
And all indications on Monday suggested that a purely partisan fight is what lies ahead.
“This bill is about two new Senate seats,” ranking Republican committee member James Comer said. “There’s not a single Republican in Congress, in the House or the Senate, that supports this bill.”
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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