Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced legislation that would make Washington, D.C. the 51st state in the union and give its residents a real voice in the chambers.
The Senate legislation garnered 17 co-sponsors, slightly less than the same legislation achieved last year, but Sen. Tom Carper, who introduced the legislation, is still optimistic about the bill’s potential.
Carper said it is “simply not fair” that residents of the nation’s capital do not enjoy the same right to representation in the federal government that residents in other states have.
“The District of Columbia is not just a collection of government offices, monuments and museums. It is home to more than 600,000 people who build lives, families, and careers here,” Carper said in a statement. “These Americans serve in our military, die defending our country, serve on our juries, and pay federal taxes. Yet, despite their civic contributions, they are not afforded a vote in either chamber of Congress.”
The Senate bill comes as companion legislation to a bill introduced earlier this year by D.C.’s delegate in the House, Eleanor Holmes Norton, that would create the new state called New Columbia.
Currently, Norton represents the district in the house as a non-voting delegate. Similarly to non-voting delegates from U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Norton is not allowed to vote on the House floor, but unlike those territories, residents in the district are forced to pay federal income taxes.
D.C. also currently has two “Shadow Senators,” Michael Brown and Paul Strauss, who are elected by city residents through a “State” Constitution, which the district ratified in 1982, but was never approved by Congress. The shadow senators are not officially seated in the Senate, but they promote the cause of the district with senators.
Under the new legislation, the state of New Columbia would receive actual representation in each house, with two voting senators and a single representative.
With roughly 650,000 residents in the city, New Columbia’s representation would be on par with states like Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota and Alaska, which have populations between 570,000 and 730,000, and each posses one vote in the House.
If the legislation were to succeed, The District of Columbia would be limited to the federal monuments, the White House, the Capitol Complex, the Supreme Court Building and a handful of office buildings surrounding the National Mall.
Aside from a few military properties sprinkled throughout the city and any bridge or tunnel that connects the city with Virginia, which will still be owned by the federal government, the rest of the land now considered the District of Columbia would then become New Columbia.
Mayor Muriel Bowser would become governor, the Council of the District of Columbia would become state House of Delegates, and chairman of the council would become president of the House of Delegates.
When the legislation was introduced in the last Congress, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held the first hearing on a D.C. statehood initiative in almost 20 years, though the bill didn’t make it to a vote on the floor.
The district leans heavily Democrat, to the tune of more than 75 percent of registered voters, with Republicans a distant third, at just over 6 percent, behind “No Party,” with slightly more than 17 percent.
Given these statistics, it is unlikely the Republican-led Congress would let the district become a state, because it would most definitely vote blue.
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