WASHINGTON — Baby steps. Moving the football forward one more yard. Advocates and supporters agree, the political math is not favorable to get a D.C. statehood bill on President Biden's desk this year. But they know another push for statehood is a step in the right direction.
"The single idea of 'taxation without representation' that gave rise to the American Revolution still resonates today," said D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton. "D.C. residents pay the highest federal taxes per capita and more federal taxes than 23 states, and the District has a bond rating higher than 35 states. They've fought and died in every war since the Revolution, and they deserve voting representation in Congress and full local self-government. Thank you to Senator Carper, our longtime ally, for leading the charge in the Senate."
Norton is D.C.'s delegate to the House of Representatives.
Norton introduced the House bill on "the first day possible of the 118th Congress" with 165 original cosponsors. The bill now has 173 cosponsors, Norton's office said in a press release.
"For me today is personal," Norton said.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said, "It's personal because we are Americans just like everybody else."
Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) is the lead Senate sponsor of the D.C. Statehood bill.
"A historic injustice still prevails," Carper said. "There are nearly 700,000 Americans who call the District of Columbia home, and they do not have a voting representative in either chamber of the Congress."
The bill has almost unanimous support in the Senate democratic caucus, including with Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
"We're here because it's simply wrong," Hollen said. "The right side of this is to assure fairness. To assure equality. To assure equal justice. We're going to keep the march going. We will prevail."
By not being a state, D.C. often doesn't get what it needs because it needs the approval of Congress.
D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelsem said, "25% of our trial court and court of appeal judgeships are vacant. Approval of our laws are always delayed because all of them must come before Congress for either 30 or 60 days or nothing happens."
There appears to be a better chance this time to get this bill through a committee vote in the Senate and then possibly onto the Senate floor. But without a filibuster proof majority, that's 10 Republican senators crossing over to support it. The math isn't good to get this bill out of the Senate and darn near impossible with GOP control of the House.
Norton released a full statement on the bill's introduction:
We welcome Senator Carper's introduction and longstanding support of our bill to give the nearly 700,000 residents of the nation's capital voting representation in Congress and full local self-government through statehood. The D.C. statehood bill has passed the House twice, most recently in April of 2021.
The most recent polling shows 54% of Americans support statehood for D.C. When the District's status of taxation without representation is noted in the poll, 58% of Americans support statehood – even 42% of Republicans.
The single idea of "taxation without representation" that gave rise to the American Revolution still resonates today. D.C. residents pay the highest federal taxes per capita and more federal taxes than 23 states, and the District has a bond rating higher than 35 states.
For me, today is also personal, because for three generations my family has yet to attain the rights other Americans take for granted. The D.C. statehood bill will always have a personal acknowledgement from me in the name of Richard Holmes, my great grandfather, who escaped as a slave from a Virginia plantation. Richard Holmes made it as far as the District of Columbia, a walk to freedom but not to equal citizenship.
With Senator Carper's introduction of the bill in the Senate, along with support from Senator Van Hollen, Mayor Bowser, D.C. Council Chair Mendelson, and so many others, we dare to believe that statehood for the residents of the nation's capital is finally on the horizon.