Carper has introduced the D.C. statehood bill in each Congress since 2013 to no avail, but this year, proponents are more optimistic with Democrats now in control of the House, Senate and the White House.
“There’s never been a time when statehood for the District was more likely,” said D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who introduced companion legislation in the House and thanked Carper for his “unending efforts” for D.C statehood.
Carper was joined by 38 Senate Democrats in sponsoring the “Washington, D.C. Admission Act,” which is aptly numbered “S. 51” He called the district’s taxation without representation a “historic injustice.”
In a news release, Carper pointed to the delay in dispatching the National Guard to quash the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol as another reason for DC statehood, since, unlike other states, D.C. has to rely on the White House to mobilize its National Guard unit.
“[D]espite paying more in federal taxes per capita than citizens of any of the 50 states, D.C. residents have no say in how those taxes are actually spent. This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue; it’s an American issue because the lack of fair representation for D.C. residents is clearly inconsistent with the values on which this country was founded,” Carper said.
“It is therefore incumbent upon all of us who enjoy the right and the privilege of full voting rights and representation to take up the cause of our fellow citizens in the District of Columbia. We must use our voices to call out this historic injustice and right this wrong. I am hopeful that we can finally come together to do just that this Congress.”
The House passed a D.C. statehood bill in June, and Holmes Norton led the effort to reintroduce the legislation in the House this year with a record 202 original co-sponsors. House Democratic leadership committed to bringing up a vote on D.C. statehood again this year.
But the challenge will be in the Senate, where Republicans have opposed statehood, since it would add two additional senators from a Democratic stronghold to the upper chamber. Without getting rid of the filibuster, which seems unlikely with moderate Democrats opposed to upending the Senate tradition, Democrats would need to find 10 GOP colleagues to support the legislation — a big uphill climb.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has made D.C. statehood among her top priorities for the Biden administration. Bowser thanked Carper for his legislation and the “record” support in the Senate with the number of co-sponsors.
“We know that D.C. statehood cannot wait. Generations of Washingtonians have been denied the right to participate in our democracy,” Bowser said in a statement.
She called the momentum in Congress “a promising sign that our country is finally ready to right this historic wrong.”
Under the plan, the 51st state would be called “Washington, Douglass Commonwealth” named for Frederick Douglass. D.C. would have full control over local affairs and full representation in Congress, which would amount to two senators and one representative in the House based on the current population. The area around the White House, Capitol, Supreme Court and National Mall would be carved out into a federal district controlled by Congress and named the “Capital.”
Author: Marisa Schultz