April 15, 2021

Democrats on the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform voted Wednesday to advance a bill that would make Washington, D.C. the nation's 51st state, winning praise from progressive activists and local elected officials.

The Washington Post reports that "the Democratic-majority committee voted along party lines to pass the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, quashing every Republican amendment during Wednesday's markup session."

"Americans deserve a democracy that's representative of and responsive to all of its people—and that means making Washington, Douglass Commonwealth the 51st state."
—Sean Eldridge, Stand Up America

The bill is sponsored by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), a nonvoting member of the House. Her legislation would limit the capital to two miles that include the National Mall, monuments, and federal buildings such as the U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court, and White House.

"Today, the more than 700,000 residents of the District of Columbia moved one step closer to having equal representation in our government and power over the laws that govern them," declared Sean Eldridge, founder and president of the advocacy group Stand Up America.

Eldridge applauded Norton and the activists who have continued to push for H.R. 51, and said that "Congress has an obligation to end the centuries-long effort to stop the Black and Brown residents of the district from fully participating in our democracy."

"Americans deserve a democracy that's representative of and responsive to all of its people—and that means making Washington, Douglass Commonwealth the 51st state," he added, specifically calling on the Senate to "step up and not let the filibuster stand in the way of representation for the residents of the District of Columbia."

The bill is largely expected to pass the House when members vote on April 19, but its future in the evenly divided Senate is uncertain, particularly given the filibuster and the fact that as of Wednesday—with Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) pledging their support—there are only 44 co-sponsors in the chamber.

Noting that the district "tends to vote overwhelmingly for Democrats," Axios reported Wednesday that "Republicans have argued that the measure is an unconstitutional power grab that the country's founders did not envisage" while Democratic supporters of the bill argue that it is necessary to advance civil rights and racial justice.

"Statehood for D.C. is about equality, fairness, and ensuring that the dreams of our Founders are realized despite over 200 years of delayed justice," Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Oversight Committee, said in her closing statement Wednesday.

"Our nation is founded upon the idea that all people should have a voice in their government. But without voting representation in Congress, the people of D.C. are denied that most basic right," she added, while thanking Norton "for her tireless advocacy to ensure that D.C. residents finally gain the full representation they deserve."

Norton, for her part, celebrated the committee's historic vote and highlighted a recent poll which found that 54% of voters—including 74% of Democrats, 51% of Independents, and 34% of Republicans—favor the effort to make D.C. the 51st state, the highest level of support ever recorded.

"Today's committee passage will further serve to educate the millions of Americans who do not know that the Americans who live in their own nation's capital do not have the same rights they have," Norton said, thanking Maloney for "her leadership and support on D.C. statehood and for prioritizing the bill early this Congress."

Welcoming the vote in a statement Wednesday, Democratic D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said that "as we get ready to celebrate D.C. Emancipation Day, we are reminded that Washingtonians are still not free and we will not be free until we have the representation in Congress that we deserve as taxpaying American citizens."

"But today we are one step closer to finally righting this 220-year-old wrong," she added, before noting that the bill passed the House during the last session on Congress.

"Last year, we came closer to D.C. statehood than ever before," Bowser said. "Now, with another House vote just one week away and historic support for D.C. statehood in the Senate, we are ready to finally end the disenfranchisement of more than 700,000 Americans and make Washington, D.C. the 51st state."

Republished from Common Dreams (Jessica Corbett, staff writer) under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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