The U.S. House is expected to pass Washington D.C. statehood Friday, marking the first time either chamber of Congress will approve such legislation.
The measure is unlikely to be taken up by the GOP-controlled Senate or the Trump administration, but the legislation represents a newfound momentum for the D.C. statehood movement among Democrats. The last time the House voted on statehood was 1993 when the bill failed 153-277.
Support for statehood comes after President Donald Trump recently deployed federal law enforcement in response to peaceful protestors marching against police brutality. The District’s lack of diminished autonomy means Mayor Muriel Bowser has little recourse against federal action.
“This blatant degradation of our home right before my own eyes offered another reminder — a particularly powerful one — of why we need statehood for the District,” Bowser wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post.
Full representation for the District’s residents, 46% of whom are Black, is also an issue of racial justice, according to statehood proponents.
“The fact that over 700,000 mostly black and brown people do not have a vote in Congress is racism,” Stasha Rhode, campaign director for the D.C. statehood advocacy organization 51 for 51.
Given the District’s lack of statehood, it has no representation in the Senate and sends just one delegate—Eleanor Holmes Norton—to the House without voting powers. The slogan “Taxation without representation,” which appears on D.C. license plates, speaks to the disenfranchisement of residents.
At 700,000 residents, D.C. has more residents than the two least populous states—Wyoming and Vermont. Residents also pay more federal taxes each year than 22 states.
Statehood would remedy the “injustice of paying taxes, proudly serving in uniform in great numbers and contributing to the economic power of our nation while being denied the full enfranchisement, which is their right,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Tuesday.
In addition to congressional representation, D.C. statehood is also significant for funding allocation, a problem that is especially relevant during the coronavirus pandemic. In the $2 trillion stimulus bill Congress passed in response to the pandemic, each state was allotted $1.25 billion in funds. The District, however, received $500 million along with the other five U.S. territories.
“If we had had two senators, this issue would not have come up,” Holmes Norton said. “There would have been no notion that any states should have been shortchanged in this way. It’s another indication of why we need D.C. statehood.”
Sources: NBC News 06/25/20; Vox 06/22/20; The Atlantic 06/24/20; Washington Monthly 04/01/20.