Washington, DC, Statehood One Step Closer After House Approves Bill

Thursday, April 22nd 2021, 5:15 pm


The addition of a 51st star to the American flag came a step closer to reality on Thursday with the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly approving a bill to make Washington, D.C., a state.

The bill, House Resolution 51, passed without any Republican support and with strong objections voiced by members of the Oklahoma delegation.

It's the second time in 10 months that the House’s Democratic majority has passed legislation that it said is about living up to the nation’s founding principle of no taxation without representation.

"But D.C. residents are taxed without representation," asserted Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, (D), the district's long-time non-voting delegate.

Speaking in support of the legislation Thursday during an hour of scheduled debate, Norton said that Congress has a choice: give the city’s 712,000 tax-paying citizens the same representation that other Americans have, or continue to exclude them from the democratic process.

"And treat them, in the words of Frederick Douglass, as aliens, not citizens, but subjects," Norton said.

Still needing Senate passage and President Joe Biden’s signature, the bill said 66 of the district’s current 68 square miles would make up the new state, which would be named Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.

That would leave an approximately two square mile federal district which would contain the Capitol complex, the White House, the National Mall and its monuments.

In a House Rules Committee hearing on the bill earlier this week, Oklahoma's Tom Cole said the bill is flawed and unconstitutional.

"Ignores the Constitution," said Rep. Cole, (R) OK-4, "ignores the practical and legal problems associated with turning the seat of the federal government into its own state."

More than anything, though, Republicans said this is an attempted power grab by the Democrats, because the new left-leaning state would get two U.S. senators.

"The only thought on their minds were two more Senate seats," said Rep. Stephanie Bice, (R) OK-5, on the House floor this week. "More control of the government. More control of American taxpayer dollars. More out-of-control spending."

Bice said she has signed onto a Republican-sponsored measure that would solve the issue of taxation without representation, but without violating the Constitution or changing the balance power -- it would incorporate Washington's residential areas into the state of Maryland.

"Before we create a new state, we should return D.C.'s residential areas back to the original state they were served," Bice said.

In 1847, a small portion of the land originally ceded to create the District of Columbia was returned to Virginia, but a Maryland retrocession seems unlikely, just as getting 60 votes for passage in the Senate does.