“Washington DC: America’s 51st State?”
Though D.C. residents continue to advocate for statehood, Congress shows little support for the district’s statehood movement. In September, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee had the first congressional hearing on a D.C. statehood bill in 21 years. Only two senators out of the fifteen in the committee attended.
Despite the low turnout, this is the first D.C. statehood bill to have 91 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 17 co-sponsors in the Senate, including Majority Leader Harry Reid. If passed the D.C. statehood bill “New Columbia Admission Act” would create the state of “New Columbia.”
“Whether you live here or not you have to care about whether the people have the rights that every other American have” Anise Jenkins, executive director of the DC Voting Rights group StandUpDemocracy, said.
The District has a shadow U.S. Representative and shadow U.S. Senator – elected offices that do not hold seats in Congress.
“Taxation without representation is enough to make people want to dump tea into the Potomac river,” Wade Henderson, President of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, said.
Henderson’s comments were reminiscent of the Boston Tea Party. During the Boston Tea Party, colonists in New England dumped tea into the Boston Harbor for because they were taxed by the British government – a government that did not represent them. Nikolas Schiller, a D.C. statehood activist, said that D.C. residents are still being treated like colonists. Schiller wore a colonial costume to the hearing.
Other activists wore red shirts and hats that said “Free DC,” “#TaxationWithoutRepresentation”and “New Columbia: the 51st State.”
“Our residents are grateful for today’s hearing even though they doubt statehood will come tomorrow,” D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said.
According to the 2012 census, D.C. has over 630,000 residents – giving D.C. a larger population than Wyoming and Vermont. The district’s leader is D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray.
D.C. has a $12.5 billion budget, $1.75 billion surplus. Gray argued that the district is already capable of operating as a state and, as such, should officially be granted statehood. By congressional mandate, D.C. must send every piece of legislation to Congress for review.
“This is an injustice that can’t stand on it’s own two feet. If we get enough attention for it, it will collapse,” said D.C. shadow Senator Michael D. Brown.