The House Committee on Oversight and Reform will hold a meeting today for H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, which would grant the District of Columbia statehood. The committee’s chair, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY 12), stated that it would be the first markup and vote for a D.C. statehood bill since 1993.
H.R. 51 was introduced by Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) in January 2019 and currently has 224 cosponsors. If enacted, it would create the state of Douglass Commonwealth, as well as give the 700,000 residents of D.C. two senators and one House representative. Today’s meeting, originally scheduled in October by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD 7) who chaired the House Oversight Committee at the time, is the first step towards the bill hitting the House floor for a full member vote.
In September, the committee held a hearing on the bill, where D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and other prominent local figures spoke about the need for statehood. Bowser said, “This is America, and Americans are entitled to equal protection under the law, and that’s why we are demanding statehood.” Bowser has been an outspoken proponent of statehood, citing how little of itself D.C. controls; Congress has the final word on its budget and can override the D.C. Council’s laws.
Despite support from the bill’s Congressional cosponsors and from all the remaining candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, D.C. statehood faces low popular support, polling at about 64% of Americans opposing it, and a clear roadblock in the Republican-controlled Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called it “full-bore socialism” in June and promised to block it on the grounds that D.C. would elect two Democratic Senators. Holmes Norton, however, noted that, “This was certainly the time to have it. Nobody in the House says, ‘Well, unless the Senate is about to pass a bill — it looks like it’s right for the bill — maybe we should sit here and do nothing.’”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD 5) promised to bring H.R. 51 to the House floor before the summer recess.
Sources: United States House of Representatives 2/7/20; NBC Washington 2/11/20; GovTrack 2/11/20; The New York Times 9/19/19; NBC Washington 1/23/20; Gallup 7/15/19; The Hill 2/6/20; WUSA 9 2/10/20.