The lengthy debate over statehood for the District of Columbia led to political headbutting Monday in Congress between Democrats who argue for it to pass and Republicans who do not believe it should become the 51st state.
House Oversight and Reform Committee legislators debated the “Washington D.C. Admission Act,” NBC News reported. The bill was introduced in the House by two Democrats, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the district and by Tom Carper of Delaware in the Senate.
“Congress can no longer allow D.C. residents to be sidelined in the democratic process, watching as Congress votes on matters that affect the nation with no say of their own,” said Norton, who noted that her own family has lived in the district without representation for nearly two centuries.
Democratic lawmakers said that Washington residents have unequal status compared to the rest of U.S. citizens because they do not have equal representation in Congress. The city, designated as a Federal District, is under U.S. government jurisdiction and operates as a municipality but does not have the same full authority to govern itself. For example, Congress can vote to overturn an ordinance passed by the Washington D.C. city council.
But the generations-long “home rule” effort in the city did loosen those ties somewhat in 1973, when Congress passed the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, giving certain powers to local authorities.
Still, residents, politicians, and activists of the majority African American city have demanded full statehood to put them on an equal political footing with the rest of the country.
Holmes’ legislation, H.R. 51, would decrease the district’s size and rename it Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, in honor of Frederick Douglass.
“All we’re looking for is equality with other Americans, especially since we pay the highest federal taxes per capita in the United States,” Norton said. “Even when a matter affects only the District of Columbia, everybody can vote on it except the person who represents the District of Columbia.”
But Republicans balked at the notion of making D.C. a state, arguing that it would be unconstitutional to do so.
“D.C. statehood is a key part of the radical leftist agenda to reshape America, along with the Green New Deal, defunding the police and packing the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Kentucky Rep. James Comer, according to NPR.
Mayor Muriel Bowser, long a proponent of D.C. statehood, brought it up again after the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection because the federal bureaucracy kept her hands tied when it came time to respond to the danger, testified in Congress Monday, again calling for legislators to get on board with the idea.
“Arguing that Washingtonians must remain disenfranchised to protect the interest of the federal government is dangerous, outdated and downright insulting,” she said.