House votes to back D.C. statehood: But will it ever happen?
The House of Representatives voted Thursday, in a 216-208 party-line vote, to approve a bill that would grant statehood to the District of Columbia.
Republicans don’t like the idea because it means two more Democrats in the United States Senate, though they don’t say that out loud, instead pushing for “retrocession,” basically, subsuming the District back into Maryland.
“Shrinking the seat of government, which is permitted by Article I, and returning the rest to Maryland for purposes of representation, offers D.C. residents a voice in the federal legislative branch and keeps faith with Maryland’s original cession of land for D.C., and works within the bounds of the Constitution,” Ninth District Republican Morgan Griffith said today during floor debate on the statehood bill, which Griffith and other Republicans claim is “unconstitutional.”
The District, with a population of 705,749, is larger than Wyoming (578,759) and Vermont (623,989), and within range of Alaska (731,545) and the Dakotas (North Dakota is at 762,062, South Dakota is at 884,659).
Four of those five states are reliably Republican, which is how it is that more Americans vote every two years for Democratic Senate candidates, and yet we have a 50/50 party split right now in the chamber – because smaller Republican states are vastly over-represented.
That’s why you get the constitutional arguments about the District and about Puerto Rico whenever the statehood question for either comes up.
Democrats, sure, there’s something of an ulterior motive in terms of Senate representation, but there is also something substantive in terms of representation and local control.
“It is critically important that every American be heard in our democracy. Our country was founded on the basis of equal representation, yet the residents of our nation’s capital – an international symbol of freedom and democracy – still lack representation within our own federal government,” Fourth District Democrat Donald McEachin said today.
“As a strong advocate for voting rights, I am proud to support D.C. statehood and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass H.R. 51,” McEachin said.
“Statehood would mean full self-government for Washingtonians, including legislative power, local budgetary control, more authority over the exercise of policing powers, and full representation in Congress,” said Eighth District Democrat Don Beyer, noting that District residents supported statehood in a 2016 referendum with 85 percent voting in favor.
“Republican statehood opponents have argued that statehood should be denied to D.C. because it is too small, because it is not rural enough, because it has insufficient logging, manufacturing, agriculture, or mining, because it is not ‘well-rounded,’ and because its residents are not ‘real Americans.’ The real reason they oppose statehood is that they disagree with the political views of Washingtonians,” Beyer said.
“While this explanation is at least honest, it is not a legitimate cause to withhold American citizens’ voting rights. In fact, those who espouse this view betray the democratic principles upon which our nation was founded,” Beyer said. “The people of Washington D.C. want the rights and responsibilities of statehood. They deserve those rights, and there is no just cause to refuse them. Washington, D.C. should be a state.”
Story by Chris Graham