WASHINGTON (AP) – The Democratic-controlled House is on track to pass a bill to make the District of Columbia the 51st state, saying that Congress has both the moral obligation and the constitutional authority to ensure that the city’s 700,000 residents will have full voting rights, no longer subject to “taxation without representation”.
Del Eleanor Holmes Norton, the representative of the non-voting district in Congress, sponsored the bill, saying it has both the facts and the constitution on its side.
DC’s population is larger than Wyoming and Vermont’s, and the new state is said to be one of seven with a population of less than a million, she said. Washington DC’s annual budget of $ 15.5 billion is greater than that of 12 states, and DC’s triple-A rating is higher than that of 35 states, Norton said.
Opponents, mostly republicans, called the bill a coup for the solidly democratic city, saying that the nation’s founding fathers planned to separate the capital from the other states.
“This is about power. Make no mistake,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas. The bill would “fundamentally change what DC is,” he added.
Norton, who has been a delegate from 1991, said the matter is very personal to her and thousands of other city dwellers who have long since been denied justice. Her great-grandfather Richard Holmes escaped slavery at a Virginia plantation and “reached DC, a walk for freedom but not for equal citizenship,” she said. “For three generations, my family has denied the rights other Americans take for granted.” ‘
Congress has two choices, she added. It can continue to exercise undemocratic, autocratic authority over the 705,000 U.S. citizens and treat them, in Frederick Douglass’s words, as “aliens, not citizens, but subjects.” Or Congress can live up to the promises and ideals of this country, end the taxation without representation, and take over the bill.
The vote in the House would be the first time that a Congressional chamber has passed a bill on the state of DC, but the legislation faces insurmountable opposition in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Senator Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Condemned the bill prior to the vote in the House. In a speech in the Senate, he rejected Washington, DC, as a city with little more to offer than lobbyists and federal workers.
“Yes, Wyoming is smaller than Washington by population, but it has three times as many workers in mining, logging, and construction, and ten times as many workers in production,” Cotton said. “In other words, Wyoming is a versatile workers’ state.”
Cotton also criticized the Democrats for prioritizing the vote on the DC state while there is “mob violence” on the street. Recent protests near the White House required “the strength of federal law enforcement officers under federal control,” he said.
“Would you trust Mayor Bowser to protect Washington if she were given the powers of a governor? Would you trust Marion Barry? Cotton added referring to current and former DC mayors, both black.
Cotton’s comments sparked outrage on social media, with many calling the comments racist. DC has a large African American population and was once known as ‘Chocolate City’ although it is no longer the majority black.
Supporters said the bill has become even more important after protests for racial justice in both Washington and across the country. The Trump administration’s much-criticized move to use federal forces to evacuate Lafayette Square near the White House from peaceful protesters so that President Donald Trump could trumpet his law and order credentials in a photo prompted Democratic leaders to schedule the mood.
“There should be no troops from other states in Washington, DC,” Bowser said. “No federal forces should advance against Americans, and certainly no soldiers should be stationed in our city waiting for an attack to attack Americans in a local police case.”
Trump said last month that “DC will never be a state” because it would likely mean two more democratic senators. “No thank you. That will never happen,” he said.
But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Said that the rights of DC residents should exceed political calculations.
“Of all our research, we are the only free country in the world that does not have a Member of Parliament with a vote in their country. We call our parliament “Congress,” Hoyer said at a news conference on Thursday.
Recent events have drawn national attention to the state of the city. Earlier this year, when Congress approved the CARES Act stimulus package, the capital was classified as an area rather than a state – a distinction that cost Washington more than $ 700 million in federal funding.
All district laws are reviewed by a congressional committee, which can veto or change them by linking riders to federal credits. During Congress’s GOP control, conservatives have attempted, usually unsuccessfully, to restrict some of the city’s liberal initiatives, such as exchanging needles for drug users and abortions under the Medicaid program.
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