D.C. politicians, with some help from Capitol Hill, recently laid out the case for the District’s statehood, introducing its statehood bill and formally petitioning Congress during a press conference Wednesday, March 1.
The Washington D.C. Act would make the city the nation’s 51st state called the “State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth,” with federal representation including two senators and one House member.
The bill reads: “State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth is declared to be a State of the United States of America, and is declared admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the other States in all respects whatever.”
D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced the bill in the House with 116 original cosponsors — a record number, according to her office. Delaware Sen. Tom Carper will introduce the statehood bill in the Senate.
Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson delivered the council’s formal petition for statehood to Congress after the statehood referendum was overwhelmingly passed by D.C. voters, a legal prerequisite in line with the “Tennessee Plan.”
“While a lot of things happened on Nov. 8 one thing that is very special to us is 85 percent of Washingtonians came out to say ‘we see our new streamlined constitution, we see the boundaries for our state and we agree to a representative government,’” Bowser said.
Norton acknowledged the legislation’s slim chance of passage.
“We know what the Congress looks liked, we know what the executive [branch] looks like, but if you stop building momentum, you simply won’t be ready when the time comes,” she said. “By proceeding today, we are building our momentum so that when the Congress is correctly aligned, we’ll be ready to move.”
However, neither Norton, Bowser nor Mendelson will have a vote if the bill hits the House or Senate floors.
“Our detractors say that the Founding Fathers intended this … but we do not need to amend the Constitution to remedy our status,” Mendelson said. “We are here petitioning Congress to grant us statehood just as Congress has granted statehood to 37 states since the Founding Fathers.”
Carper, who Norton described as a “strong advocate,” said D.C. was being “denied representation in Congress and the Senate” despite paying federal income taxes. He previously introduced a statehood bill in the Senate and hosted one of first hearings on the issue in nearly two decades, though it was poorly attended.
Norton pointed out that no representative from the White House was present at the press conference, but said the process would be the same regardless of who the president is, as presidents do not grant statehood.
Bowser noted that D.C. has a larger population than two existing states and pays more taxes than 22 other states.
“This issue is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it’s an American issue,” Bowser said. “We call on Americans from both sides of the aisle to look to our city where we already operate as a city, county and a state; where we are 681,000 people; where we’re taxpaying Americans.
“We take care of ourselves,” she said. “We are a self-sufficient entity and we are a jurisdiction that works better than many. … We had a recent audit, clean audit, no material weaknesses. We have reserve funds in the bank to be able to invest in the things will continue to make our city great.”