On September 19, 2019 the Oversight and Reform Committee held the first hearing in the House in 26 years to consider statehood for the District of Columbia. This latest effort to gain statehood began in 2016 when 86% of DC voters passed a referendum that ratified a state constitution, agreed to state boundaries and a republican representative form of government, and authorized the mayor to petition Congress for statehood.
At the hearing, advocates for statehood argued that this is a human rights and civil rights issue. Per capita, DC residents pay the highest federal taxes in the country, but have no say in how those taxes are apportioned. Congress also approves the city’s budget and all laws passed by the DC Council and ballot initiatives approved by residents.This allows Congress to insert “riders” that defy the will of the people, such as the rider that prevents DC from implementing an adult-use cannabis program.
Constitutional scholars at the hearing addressed the Admission Clause, the District Clause and the 23rd Amendment. A witness in opposition argued that the Admissions clause was applicable to territories and not the federal district, so a constitutional amendment, rather than an act of Congress is required to make DC a state.
Opponents of DC statehood did not dispute the testimony of any of the pro-statehood witnesses. Instead they implied that DC should not be a state because Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans is under investigation of corruption, and congressional staffers might not be able to park their cars on federal land while at work. They also argued that the founding fathers never intended for the seat of government to be a state.
Ultimately DC statehood is about the race and political preferences of the city’s more than 700,000 residents. Representative Gerald E. Connolly (D-Virgina) said of Republicans: “When they say it’s not about race and partisanship, you can be sure it’s about race and partisanship.” Republicans oppose DC statehood because Black residents outnumber white residents and the vast majority of voters are Democrats.