Please find below an op-ed I authored on DC Statehood for the Center for American Progress’ Blog, ThinkProgress.org. I also had the honor of attending today’s Senate hearing on S. 132, the New Columbia Admission Act of 2013. The bill, if enacted, would make “New Columbia” the 51st state, and grant full voting representation to the more than 650,000 residents of the District of Columbia.
Senate Considers DC Statehood For The First Time In Over Two Decades
by Kenyan McDuffie
September 15, 2014
“Senate Considers DC Statehood For The First Time In Over Two Decades”
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hear testimony today on whether the much of the District of Columbia should be granted statehood — and, with it, full representation in Congress. Under this proposal, most of the commercial and residential areas of D.C. will form the state of “New Columbia,” while a small area around the White House and the Capitol will remain under federal control.
The case for D.C. statehood is even older than our nation itself. The phrase “taxation without representation is tyranny” was uttered more than two centuries ago by James Otis, Jr., and this well-known phrase laid the foundation for our Democratic government. Today, following the American Revolution and hundreds of years of promoting democracy at home and abroad, every tax-paying citizen in the United States enjoys full representation through their voting members in the House of Representatives and Senate. This is of course with the exception of the nearly 650,000 of us who live in the District of Columbia.
I am a third generation Washingtonian, meaning my grandparents, my parents, and I have all been treated like second-class citizens despite making significant contributions to our country. We pay more per capita in federal taxes than all 50 states. More D.C. residents have fought and died in many of our nation’s wars than the residents of several states, in addition to the fact that D.C. remains home to more active duty military personnel than 31 states. Our population is greater than Vermont and Wyoming, yet our local budgets and laws are subject to congressional approval and frequent, capricious meddling.
In years past, Congress has denied us the ability to spend our own locally-raised dollars—more than $6 billion—on critical initiatives like abortions for low-income women and needle exchange programs, even while facing high rates of HIV/AIDS. More recently, a Tea Party Republican in the House sought to restrict our right to spend local dollars to implement a local law intended to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Equally troubling, if, and when, the Federal Government shuts down due to Congress’ inability to pass a budget, vital District agencies are forced to shutter their doors, causing, amongst other things, trash to pile up on our streets and libraries to close.
For the first time in over 20 years, the Senate will hold a hearing on a bill (S. 132, the “New Columbia Admission Act of 2013”) that would grant us full democracy. There are 16 co-sponsors in the Senate, while a similar bill in the House of Representatives has 91 co-sponsors. The bill, if enacted, would shrink the size of the constitutionally-mandated federal district to include only those areas where representatives of other U.S. districts conduct federal business. Above all, Congress would finally grant statehood to D.C., providing residents the opportunity for the very first time to draft a state constitution and have full representation in the House of Representatives and Senate.
“Taxation Without Representation” is more than a slogan on our license plates. It is a symbol of the veritable scourge at the heart of American democracy. And until we secure D.C. statehood, we will continue to function as a colony of the United States, and hundreds of thousands of tax-paying American citizens will continue to be denied fundamental democratic rights in the shadows of the U.S. Capitol.
Kenyan McDuffie is the Ward 5 Councilmember and Chair Pro Tempore of the D.C Council