The Senate committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing Tuesday on S51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, a statehood bill that passed the US House two months ago.
During the hearing, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said the Senate’s inaction “could doom yet another generation of young native Washingtonians to being locked out of their constitutionally-given political power and human rights.”
The mayor argued that there was no legal or constitutional barrier that would block the District from becoming the 51st state of the nation.
DC Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who sponsored the bill, also spoke Tuesday, saying the committee hearing was of “historic significance,” as it is only the second Senate hearing on the DC statehood bill in the country’s history.
“Today’s hearing, just the second Senate hearing on the D.C. statehood bill in history, made the definitive case for the bill,” Norton said later in a release. “Despite many questions from Republican senators seeking to challenge the constitutionality of the bill and D.C.’s own ‘readiness’ for statehood, the testimony presented from Mayor Bowser and expert witnesses leaves no doubt that the Washington, D.C. Admission Act is constitutional and that the state would meet all of the financial, economic and other obligations of states.”
Prayerfully, I will be the last DC mayor who needs to demand what is our birthright, and what is owed to us as taxpayers—full citizenship and full democracy.#DCStatehood now. pic.twitter.com/2Cfn7hkjaE
— Mayor Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser) June 22, 2021
An opposing voice at the hearing was raised by GOP Sen. James Lankford (Okla.), who said the nation’s capital has a unique status and that everyone who moves there is aware of the fact that “they don’t have a vote for a senator or a House member.” He later acknowledged the presence of DC’s non-voting House delegate Norton.
“It’s been well known that when you move to Washington, D.C., at any point, you’re moving to an area that doesn’t have two senators or a House member,” Lankford said, adding “No one’s compelled to actually” live in the District.
According to the senator, the founders designed the region “to never be a state.”
DC’s population is larger than two states.
DC pays *more* federal taxes per capita than any state and pays more federal taxes than 21 states. DC’s gross domestic product is larger than 17 states.
In 2016, 86 percent of DC residents voted for #DCStatehood.
— Eleanor #DCStatehood Holmes Norton (@EleanorNorton) June 22, 2021
Also testifying in support of the legislation, University of Michigan law professor Richard Primus spoke on the constitutionality of DC statehood.
“It’s true, the founding generation didn’t intend Washington D.C. to be a state, but the founding generation also didn’t intend to create a situation in which 700,000 Americans would have no voting representation in Congress,” said the professor. “For the founders, no principle was more central to the Constitution than representative government, and in their time, there was no conflict between that principle and that no- state status of Washington D.C. because virtually nobody lived in Washington, D.C.”
The bill stipulates establishing a 51st state with one representative and two senators, and renaming the District of Columbia as Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, after abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
With zero support from Republicans, the legislation is not likely to make it to the Senate for a final vote.
The last DC statehood hearing at the Senate was in 2014, and the bill did not get a committee vote.