Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware, has introduced a bill — The Washington, D.C. Admission Act — that would allow the District of Columbia to become the 51st state in the nation.
Carper made his announcement Tuesday with his colleague Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) on Capitol Hill. The senator said the time has come for District residents to be recognized as full citizens by its federal government.
“We have been taught in school that when our founders built a new nation, they cried ‘no taxation without representation’ — a slogan that has stood the test of time,” Carper, 76, said. “Unfortunately, ‘taxation without representation’ is the current reality for nearly 700,000 citizens living in the District of Columbia. These citizens do not have a voting representative in either chamber of Congress. They pay more federal taxes per capita than citizens of any of the 50 states, but have no say in how these taxes are actually spent. They serve in the military and can be sent to battle in a war that had no say in fighting. This is wrong and not consistent with the values we hold dear as Americans.”
Carper said D.C. statehood is an issue that goes bipartisan beyond politics.
“This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue — it’s an issue of fairness. I am proud to once again partner with Congresswoman Norton on this important issue and look forward to the work ahead to make D.C. statehood a reality,” he said.
Carper made his bill introduction as the new 118th Congress, which started earlier this month, proceeded to conduct its business. Carper first introduced legislation to grant the District statehood in 2013 and has sponsored legislation in every congressional session since. In September 2014, Carper held the first hearing on D.C. statehood in decades as chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. In June 2021, Carper joined his colleague, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Michigan), the chair of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, in leading a hearing on the issue of D.C. statehood.
Carper has garnered 42 original cosponsors for his bill, all Democrats and independents. One of the original cosponsors, Van Hollen, said the District not being a state amounts to a “national scandal.”
“It is a national scandal that the people who live in the capital of the oldest democracy in the world have fewer political rights than those who live outside it,” Van Hollen, 64, said. “Simply put, denying the people of the District of Columbia the same rights to voting representation in the House and Senate enjoyed by other citizens is undemocratic. It’s time to grant the District statehood, end taxation without representation, and deliver equality and fairness to its residents.”
Norton, 85, picked up on the unfairness of taxation without representation and thanked Carper for his commitment to the D.C. statehood.
“The single idea of ‘taxation without representation’ that gave rise to the American revolution still resonates today,” she said, emphasizing the fact that Washingtonians pay the highest federal taxes per capita — an injustice also echoed by Mayor Bowser. “[D.C. residents pay] more federal taxes than 23 states, and the District has a bond rating higher than 35 states. They’ve fought and died in every war since the Revolution, and they deserve voting representation in Congress and full self-government. Thank you to Senator Carper, our longtime ally, for leading the charge in the Senate.”
Carper didn’t speculate on when a Senate committee will consider his bill.
Presently, Norton has 173 cosponsors for her D.C. statehood bill, and previously led efforts for the House to pass her statehood bill in 2020 and 2021.
Mendelson, 70, said he realized that many Republicans oppose D.C. statehood because of the political demographic of the city.
“They say we are too liberal and too Democratic,” the chairman said. “Therefore, this has become a partisan issue.”
Mendelson said the District is penalized because of its lack of statehood noting that the D.C. Council could not send its laws to the Congress for review a few weeks ago because of the House’s stalemate in electing its speaker and Wall Street firms’ ongoing concern about the city’s financial stability — despite its well-regarded rating — due to congressional uncertainty.
Charles Wilson, the chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, attended the news conference. While Wilson expressed his satisfaction with Carper’s legislation, he said more work needs to be done in order to ensure the District joins the union.
“We have to win more elections,” he said. “The only way we are going to get statehood is to have a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate and a Democrat in the White House.”