US House of Representatives passes DC. statehood bill

US House of Representatives passes DC. statehood bill
Eleanor Holmes

The United States House of Representatives has passed a bill to make the District of Columbia the 51st state. 

While speaking about the bill on Friday June 26, 2020, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who sponsored the bill, said it had both the facts and Constitution on its side.

Lawmakers approved the bill, 232-180, largely along party lines, marking the first time a chamber of Congress has passed a D.C. statehood bill.

"D.C.’s population is larger than those of Wyoming and Vermont, and the new state would be one of seven with populations under one million," she said.

"The city’s $15.5 billion annual budget is larger than those of 12 states, and D.C.’s triple-A bond rating is higher than those of 35 states, Norton added.

“This is about power. Make no mistake about it,″ said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas. 

"The bill would fundamentally alter what D.C is,″ he added.

Norton noted that the issue was personal for her and thousands of other city residents who have long been disenfranchised. 

She stated that about three generations of her family had been denied the rights other Americans take for granted. 

She, however, said that the congress had two choices.

"It can either continue to exercise undemocratic, autocratic authority over the 705,000 American citizens, treating them as ‘aliens, not citizens, but subjects.

"Or Congress can live up to this nation’s promise and ideals, end taxation without representation and pass the statehood bill," she stated. 

According to Norton, the bill would create a new state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, in honor of the Virginia-born first president and the Maryland-born abolitionist and former slave.

She added that the bill would also reduce the size of the federal district to a tourist-friendly area that includes the White House, the Capitol, the Supreme Court, federal monuments and the federal executive, legislative and judicial office buildings adjacent to the National Mall and the Capitol.

Washington Mayor, Muriel Bowser, hailed the “historic vote” bringing the city closer than ever to becoming the 51st state.

“More than 160 years ago, Washingtonian Frederick Douglass told us: Power concedes nothing without a demand,″ Bowser said.

“As Washingtonians and as taxpaying American citizens, we are demanding what is owed to us — the rights guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution. It is past time to fix this injustice," she added. 

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., blasted the bill ahead of the House vote. In a Senate speech, he dismissed Washington, D.C., as a city with little more to offer than lobbyists and federal workers.

“Yes, Wyoming is smaller than Washington by population, but it has three times as many workers in mining, logging and construction, and 10 times as many workers in manufacturing,” Cotton said.

Cotton also criticized Democrats for prioritizing the D.C. statehood vote while there is “mob violence” in the streets. 

Recent protests near the White House required “force by federal law enforcement officers under federal control,” he said.

“Would you trust Mayor Bowser to keep Washington safe if she were given the powers of a governor? Would you trust Marion Barry?” Cotton added referring to current and former mayors, both Black.

Cotton’s remarks stirred outrage on social media, with many describing the remarks as racist.

D.C. has a large African American population and was once known as “Chocolate City,″ although it is no longer majority Black.

Supporters said the bill has become even more important in the aftermath of protests for racial justice in both Washington and across the nation. 

Trump said last month that “D.C. will never be a state” because it would likely mean two more Democratic senators. “No, thank you. That’ll never happen,” he said.

But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the rights of D.C. residents should transcend political calculations.

“We are the only free country in the world, from all our research, that doesn’t have a voting member of their parliament in their country. We call our parliament ‘Congress,’” Hoyer said.