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D.C. Statehood Panel Upbeat About 2019 Prospects

The New Columbia Statehood Commission views 2019 with excitement as it deals with a new U.S. Congress in January.

The sense of optimism prevailed at the Dec. 17 meeting of the commission, attended by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), the commission co-chairs, along with Sens. Paul Strauss (D) and Michael Brown (D) and Rep. Franklin Garcia (D), who make up the District of Columbia Statehood Delegation.

The incoming Congress, particularly the Democratic-majority House, has encouraged the commission to redouble their efforts to make the District the 51st state.

“We want to hear more ideas about what we can do with our congresswoman and a new Democratic House of Representatives,” Bowser said.

District residents pay federal taxes, can be drafted into fighting the nation’s wars, and outnumber the state populations of Vermont and Wyoming, but don’t have a full-voting member of the House of Representatives and no representation in the Senate. All attempts at enacting District statehood, whether through constitutional amendment, the courts or legislation, have failed.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.) have introduced in their respective chambers a bill called the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, and Norton has made it clear since the Democrats won the House on Nov. 6 that she will reintroduce her legislation.

Senior Bowser adviser Beverly Perry, who has served as the administrative leader in the statehood effort, told the commission and the 20 people at the meeting at the John A. Wilson Building in Northwest that the idea of statehood is gaining support on Capitol Hill.

“We have 178 co-sponsors in the House and 30 in the U.S. Senate,” she said. “We will have majority of the vote in the House and with the Democrats favoring the bill in the Senate, all we need are five Republicans for it to pass there. Then all it needs is the signature of the president.”

Perry said the District government has put D.C. statehood information kiosks at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the Frank Reeves Center and Union Station, all in Northwest. She said that the administration is working on an app to help people better understand the D.C. statehood issue.

Perry said the mayor recently played a key role in bringing in an important constituency in the District.

“The mayor thought it was a good idea to reach out to the business community, so she convened a Corporate Council,” Perry said. “That consists of 30 CEOs of companies in the city. She told them that statehood is a business issue.”

Perry noted that the CEO of Capital One requested that kiosks be placed in their District locations.

Bo Shuff, the executive director of DC Vote, a pro-statehood organization, told the commission and the audience that Feb. 13, 2019, will be “Statehood Lobby Day,” during which supporters will converge on Capitol Hill for the cause.

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