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D.C. Statehood Passage Requires Complex Congressional Calculus

Committees in Congress to Play Key Roles

While congressional leaders of both chambers have indicated their support for D.C. statehood legislation, passage of the bill will require key committee action within this session of Congress.

“It is at the committee level where the rubber hits the road,” said Paul Brathwaite, a former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus. “D.C. statehood legislation will need to get through very important, key committees. In the House, it will be the Oversight and Reform Committee, and in the Senate, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. The key to any success D.C. statehood legislation has will start with those committees.”

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the author of the Washington, D.C. Admission Act of 2021, which has 210 co-sponsors, ranks second in seniority on the House’s Oversight and Reform Committee that will consider her bill during this session of Congress. She also ranks second in seniority on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and on Feb. 3 won re-election as the chair of its Highways and Transit Subcommittee.

Norton Plans to Use Committee Seniority to Accelerate National Projects

The subcommittee deals with the nation’s transportation and infrastructure projects and the delegate expressed satisfaction serving at the helm of it once again.

“Transportation and infrastructure issues are among the most bipartisan in the House and the Senate,” Norton said. “I look forward to focusing particularly on rising issues, among them, reducing congestion, addressing climate change, and encouraging innovation, while continuing to prioritize investment in infrastructure for D.C., the national capital region and the country.”

Brathwaite said Norton will use her seniority on both committees and her chairmanship of the Highways and Transit subcommittee to assist members with projects in their districts and they in turn can support District transportation and infrastructure plans and statehood.

In the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Norton can count on all of the Democrats to support her statehood bill especially the chairwoman of the committee, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and her colleagues Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and District-born Hank Johnson (D-Ga.).

In addition, if Norton’s bill clears the Oversight and Reform committee, it will need to go to the House Rules Committee where the guidelines of the bill’s presentation on the floor will be considered, an aide to the delegate told the Informer. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), an African American and supporter of D.C. statehood, serves as the second-highest-ranking member of the Rules Committee.

While Norton won re-election to her subcommittee post, the Senate changed from being a Republican-run chamber to one managed by the Democrats that day. New Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants to bring Sen. Thomas Carper’s (D-Del.) D.C. statehood bill to the floor for a vote.

Bill Needs to Clear Hurdles by 2022

Democrats will chair the committees and Carper serves on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, where his D.C. statehood legislation will be considered. Carper ranks second in seniority on the committee behind chairman, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who supports D.C. statehood, too.

On the Republican side of the Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) have been identified by Josh Burch, organizer of the Neighbors United for D.C. Statehood, as being open to considering supporting Carper’s bill.

Dr. Ravi Perry, the chairman of the political science department at Howard University, said Republican support will be needed for Carper’s legislation to get on the Senate floor.

“I don’t see a problem Carper’s bill getting out of committee now that the Democrats are in control,” Perry said. “However, they will need 60 votes to kill a likely Republican filibuster and will need Republican votes to do that given the Democrats only have 50 votes. Right now, that’s a slim possibility.”

Both Brathwaite and Perry said District residents and statehood advocates need to pay attention to the committee process.

“It is my opinion that a D.C. statehood bill needs to pass and be on President Biden’s desk within the next two years,” Perry said. “Who knows what will happen in the 2022 election? Statehood supporters should let their family and friends know about their cause and tell them to contact their lawmakers, especially those on the committees. Emails, letters and phone calls have been known to make a difference in getting legislation passed.”

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