The Student News Site of Gonzaga College High School

The Aquilian

The Aquilian

The Aquilian

The U.S. Senate needs to pass S. 51

D.C. residents rallying against the GOP and fighting for statehood. (Photo by DCist)
D.C. residents rallying against the GOP and fighting for statehood. (Photo by DCist)

The fight for D.C. statehood has been a long uphill battle for the residents of The District. The first bill that would have made D.C. a state was introduced during the Harding administration by Senator Wesley Livsey Jones of Washington State; however, that bill died in committee and never came to the floor for a vote. 

In 2016, the residents of the District voted overwhelmingly for D.C. statehood by a margin of 86-14 in favor. During the 116th Congress, the House passed a bill that would grant D.C. statehood passed the House 230-180 but that bill did not pass the Republican-controlled Senate. 

On January 4th 2021, the congressional delegate from the District Eleanor Holmes Norton reintroduced the H.R. 51 also known as The Washington, D.C. Admission Act. H.R. 51 passed the House by a thin margin, 216-208. Although D.C. statehood seems like a local issue, it should be in everyone’s interest to enfranchise seven hundred thousand citizens who do not have a voice in Congress. 

Constitutionally, the present federal district is unconstitutional. The original text of the Constitution states, “Congress has the power to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States.” Currently, D.C. is about 68 square miles, so in order to comply with the Constitution, D.C. should become a state. 

D.C. statehood is about more than partisan politics and winning the Senate. D.C. statehood is about voting rights for the 700,000 residents of the District. Currently, D.C. has a non-voting representative, Eleanor Holmes Norton. She only has power to vote in committee but cannot cast a vote on the floor of the House. D.C.‘s status as a federal district has wide ranging effects that go beyond voting rights. 

As a federal district, D.C. was not able to receive the same COVID-19 relief money that other states received. Because D.C. is not a state, it does not have control over its National Guard. During the Jan, 6 insurrection at the Capital, the Metropolitan Police Department reported to the Capital but were overwhelmed by the sheer number of rioters storming the capital. Control of the D.C. National Guard falls to the President, who failed to act in a speedy manner, further escalating the violence that occured on that day. Unlike all other states, the budget of the District is subject to review by the House and the Senate. Members of the House and Senate can attach “riders” to D.C.’s budget, which can change a law passed by the District. The most notable riders that were attempted to be attached happened back in 2014. House Republicans attempted to add a rider that would block the Districts decriminalization of marajuana and a rider that would dismantle D.C. ‘s gun control laws. The argument for D.C. statehood is overwhelming, but some on the right believe that D.C. should not be a state. 

For those on the right, the argument for D.C. statehood is based on arbitrary standards for a state and not constitutional requirements. Republican members of the House and Senate have made ludicrous arguments against D.C. statehood. Senator for Arkansas Tom Cotton argued that Washington D.C. should not be a state. 

“Washington does not have the size or diversity of interest of even the smallest of the 50 states. Yes, Wyoming is smaller than Washington by population, but it has three times as many workers in mining, logging and construction. And 10 times as many workers in manufacturing, “ said Sen. Cotton in a speech on the Senate floor on June 25, 2020. “In other words, Wyoming is a well-rounded working class state.”

What the Senator fails to recognize is that the District pays more taxes than 22 states and has the highest taxes per capita of any state or territory. 

More recently, Congressmen from Georgia Jody Hice used some more of the arbitrary logic to deny the people of D.C. the right to vote. 

“D.C. would be the only state without an airport, without a car dealership, without a capital city, without a landfill, without even a name on its own,” said Congressman Hice during a Congressional hearing on March 22, 2021. 

The nature of these arguments are simply illogical and do nothing more than to distract from the real issues of disenfranchisement of the residents of the District. 

A proposal by Republicans is to retrocess D.C. back into Maryland and create a federal district from the area around federal buildings. However, recent polling data suggests that this idea does not have support from D.C. residents or Maryland residents. In a poll conducted in 2016 by Washington City Paper of Maryland voters, 44% of voters opposed Maryland annexing DC, while 28% of voters were both supportive of annexation and unsure about annexation. D.C. mayor Murial Bowser has been steadfast in her opposition of retrocession in an interview with Meet the Press host Chuck Todd back in 2015. 

“We’re Washington, D.C., Chuck. The residents of the District of Columbia really want to forge a new path towards statehood. And we can start with budget autonomy, unhooking our government from the federal government,” said Bowser when asked about D.C. statehood. 

D.C. statehood is one of the most contentious political issues of the day but at the present moment, it seems like an impossibility. Currently, the Senate is split 50-50 and it is nearly impossible to get the 60 votes necessary to bypass the filibuster. Additionally, three Democratic Senators, Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona, and Joe Manchin from West Virginia and one Independent, Angus King from Maine, have not signaled their support for D.C. statehood. At this rate, D.C. may never get its day on the Senate floor until structural changes happen in the Senate.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Aquilian

Your donation will support the student journalists of Gonzaga College High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Aquilian

Comments (0)

All The Aquilian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *