WASHINGTON (WDVM) — The Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hybrid hearing Wednesday on H.R. 51, or the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, which would grant the District statehood.
Committee Member Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced the bill on January 4. Today, it has 215 cosponsors. The Senate’s version, introduced by Senator Tom Carper, has over 40 cosponsors. The House of Representatives passed an identical version in the 166th Congress (2019-2020).
“With Democrats controlling the House, the Senate, and the White House, we have never been closer to statehood,” Holmes Norton said in her opening remarks.
Members discussed “Congress’s constitutional authority to admit the District of Columbia as a state and reduce the size of the federal district.” The State of Washington, D.C. would be two square miles smaller than the federal district.
“The reduced federal district, over which Congress would retain plenary authority, would be two square miles and consist of the Washington that Members of Congress and visitors associate with the nation’s capital, including the U.S. Capitol complex, the White House, the Supreme Court, the principal federal monuments and the National Mall,” said Holmes Norton. “It would be called the Capital.”
Members also debated “three prerequisites Congress has generally considered in admission decisions,” which are not laid out in the U.S. Constitution. Holmes Norton says those prerequisites generally include “the prospective state’s population and resources, support for statehood and commitment to democracy.”
D.C. is home to 712,000 residents — larger than Vermont and Wyoming’s populations. “D.C. pays more federal taxes per capita than any state and pays more federal taxes than 21 states,” Holmes Norton said. “D.C.’s budget is larger than those of 12 states. Eighty-six percent of D.C. residents voted for statehood in 2016.”
Some of those supporters include a handful of the hearing’s witnesses, like D.C.‘s Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council’s chairman, Phil Mendelson.
In his opening remarks, Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky) said H.R. 51 is a ploy by the Democratic Party to add two new Senate seats. “That’s what this bill is about and everyone in America knows that,” he said.
Instead of debating statehood in Congress, Comer suggested focusing on the U.S. border with Mexico, supporting police departments, and lowering taxes. He also cited Rasmussen’s latest nationwide poll, in which 55 percent of respondents were against DC statehood.
“The Founding Fathers knew this is what D.C. would become—everything that it is today. And they didn’t want it to be a state. In fact, they overwhelmingly rejected it,” Comer said.
“My own family has lived through almost 200 years of change in D.C. since my great-grandfather Richard Holmes, as a slave, walked away from a plantation in Virginia and made his way to D.C.,” Holmes Norton said. “Today, it is my great honor to serve in the city where my family has lived without equal representation for almost two centuries.”