A U.S. House committee heard arguments Monday on making Washington, D.C., the 51st state, as leaders work to gain rights for the District’s more than 700,000 residents.
Mayor Muriel Bowser and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton advocated for H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, before the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
"Congress can no longer allow D.C. residents to be sidelined in the democratic process, watching as Congress votes on matters that affect the nation with no say of their own, or watching as Congress votes to overturn the laws of the duly elected D.C. Council with no say of their own," Norton's prepared remarks said.
"Full democracy requires much more," she continued. "D.C. residents deserve full voting representation in the Senate and the House and complete control over their local affairs. They deserve statehood."
In making their case, Bowser and other Democrats compared D.C. to states, pointing out that:
- D.C. has more residents than Vermont and Wyoming;
- D.C. residents pay more in federal taxes than 22 states;
- D.C. residents pay more in federal taxes per capita than any other state;
- D.C. has a AAA bond rating; and
- D.C.'s mayor cannot activate the National Guard.
Republican members of the House cut off Bowser several times as she spoke and said they opposed D.C. statehood for constitutional and political reasons.
“Is the Democratic Party attempting a political power grab of obtaining new senators?” Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) asked.
Bowser pushed back and said Republicans were making “bad-faith arguments” to deny District residents their rights.
“It’s dangerous, outdated and downright insulting,” she said.
District residents waved 51-star flags and chanted “statehood now” at rallies Monday morning on Capitol Hill.
Ahead of the hearing, American flags with 51 stars lined Pennsylvania Avenue and flew along Black Lives Matter Plaza and outside the White House.
The need for statehood has been particularly clear as COVID-19 vaccines have been allocated to D.C. by the federal government, said Beverly Perry, a senior adviser to Bowser.
“We were shortchanged and we didn’t even have a member in the Senate to go to,” she said.
D.C. statehood has widespread Democratic support in the House, with more than 200 co-sponsors. A similar bill passed in the House last session.
The time for statehood is now, said Perry, the adviser to the mayor.
“We’ve never been this close, and we’ve never been this ready,” she said.
It appears that the bill will pass through the House, but it has an uphill battle in the Senate. Democrats would need the support of every Democrat — which isn’t a sure thing — plus 10 Republicans.
President Joe Biden supports statehood. But even if the measure were approved in the House and Senate and then by Biden, it likely would face court challenges.
Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story.