Bill to Give DC Statehood Introduced in US Senate
WASHINGTON — District of Columbia leaders made another push to rid themselves of federal oversight Tuesday by having a bill introduced in the Senate that would give them statehood.
The House of Representatives approved statehood for the District of Columbia in 2021 but the bill stalled in the Senate.
This time, statehood has support from President Joe Biden and a growing number of lawmakers.
“We dare to believe that statehood for the residents of the nation’s capital is finally on the horizon,” said Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s non-voting Democratic delegate to Congress.
She spoke during a press conference at the Dirksen Senate Office Building along with Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., who introduced the statehood bill Tuesday.
The primary issue behind the statehood move is the fact that the District of Columbia’s 700,000 residents pay some of the nation’s highest taxes but have no voting members in Congress. In addition, legislative action by the D.C. Council can be vetoed by Congress.
In a recent example, a bill pending in Congress would overturn a law approved by the D.C. Council that gives non-citizen residents of Washington a right to vote in its local elections. Some members of Congress say the law encourages illegal immigration.
In 2015, a House committee overturned a D.C. law that banned discrimination based on employees’ reproductive decisions. The law, called the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act, prohibited employers from discriminating against employees who seek contraception, family planning services or abortions.
In other conflicts, members of Congress threatened to veto D.C. laws that banned most handguns unless the owners received police permission and that permitted recreational use of marijuana.
All of the lawmakers who disputed D.C. Council laws came from states somewhere beyond District of Columbia boundaries. Most were Republicans while Washington is heavily Democratic.
“The single idea of taxation without representation that gave rise to the American revolution still resonates today,” Norton said.
She cited a recent poll that showed 54% of Americans support statehood for Washington.
Carper, a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, led a group of Democratic senators who reintroduced the statehood bill, titled the D.C. Admission Act (S.51).
It would eliminate congressional oversight of the D.C. Council and give local officials authority to select judges to state courts. It would designate the areas surrounding the White House, the Capitol, the Supreme Court and the National Mall as the seat of the federal government. They would retain the name of the “Capitol” and remain under the control of Congress.
The rest of the District of Columbia’s 68 square miles would become the smallest U.S. state.
“These Americans here in the District of Columbia are hard-working residents who pay the most per capita in taxes of anyone in the country but they have no say in how those dollars are spent,” Carper said.
The D.C. Admissions Act faces tough opposition, both from the Constitution and members of Congress.
When the House approved a D.C. statehood bill in 2021 by a 216-208 margin, Republicans overwhelmingly opposed it in the House and Senate. By adding two senators and a congressman from strongly Democratic Washington, they said it would shift power too much toward Democrats.
They also said statehood would defeat provisions in the Constitution that created the District of Columbia as a federal district to free it from any one state’s influence.
The founding fathers who wrote the Constitution “never wanted D.C. to be a state and then specifically framed the Constitution to say so,” said Georgia Republican Rep. Jody Hice after the 2021 vote. “This is absolutely against what our founders intended and it ought to be soundly rejected.”