The Democrats on Monday stepped up their campaign to give statehood to the federal capital Washington, a goal that could upset the balance of power in the United States. “With Democrats in charge in the House, Senate and White House, we have never been so close to statehood” for Washington, said Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the city in the House of Representatives. , during a highly anticipated hearing.
Since the Federal Capital is not a state, however, this parliamentarian has only observer status and cannot vote in Congress. Including on texts that directly concern its voters, such as the one that was debated in committee on Monday: a bill that would make Washington the 51st U.S. state.
D.C. should be a state. Do you agree?#DCStatehood
Yes 👇 Yes 👇Yes 👇
— Eleanor #DCStatehood Holmes Norton (@EleanorNorton) March 21, 2021
No voice in Congress
Democrats thus denounce an infringement of the fundamental rights of its inhabitants. Its more than 700,000 inhabitants pay their federal taxes – more per person than any other American state, insist the Democrats -, are drafted under the banner and can vote in the presidential elections. But they don’t have a voice in Congress.
In June 2020, the House had already approved a bill to give Washington statehood. A historic first obtained thanks to the votes of the Democrats alone. And remained a dead letter in the Senate, then controlled by the Republicans. By becoming a state, Washington would get two senators and one representative with the right to vote in the House.
Opposition of the Republicans
But this prospect bristles Republicans, since the city has an overwhelming Democratic majority. 92% of its residents voted for Joe Biden in November. “This hearing has only one objective: to create two new Democratic seats in the Senate,” said an elected Republican, James Comer, during the hearing.
His party also recalls that the specific status of the “District of Columbia” has been differentiated because it houses the seats of federal power, in order to prevent it from being “influenced by a state”. When the United States was created in the 18th century, the “founding fathers” had indeed wanted to establish the seat of the federal government outside the first 13 states in order to avoid conflicts. The Constitution therefore provided for the creation of a “district” in 1790, directly attached to the central power. It is because of this unique status that residents of Washington do not have elected officials who vote in Congress.
The continuing denial of representation for DC residents is an overt act of voter suppression.
It is beyond time to rectify this by giving DC the true autonomy and self-governance that comes with statehood.https://t.co/N4gzsC488W
– the ACLU (@ACLU) March 22, 2021
Support by Joe Biden
For the powerful civil rights organization ACLU, depriving Washington of a voice in Congress amounts to “suppressing the political power of black people”, since 46% of its inhabitants are African-Americans. The mayor of the capital, Muriel Bowser, added that the status of the city resulted in particular “from the racist attempts to undermine a black city which grew and prospered”, by preventing it from voting in Congress.
For his part, Democratic President Joe Biden supports the initiative, because he believes that its inhabitants “deserve to be represented,” said the White House. Passage of the new bill is “guaranteed” in the Democrat-controlled House, according to Eleanor Holmes Norton, although no date has yet been set. However, his passage in the Senate appears complicated. The Democrats have a very narrow majority there but would need ten Republicans to be able to authorize a vote on this text.