Meet-Up for DC Statehood at the Argonaut

Featured imageCome join us at the Argonaut at 1433 H St. NE on Wednesday, October 8th, from 6:30-8pm. We’ll be having a meet-up conveniently located near the intersection of Wards 5, 6, & 7 though all are most welcome. Come join us to learn about what’s been going on in the statehood movement of late, share your ideas on how we can make it better, learn about upcoming events, and ask lots of questions. This will be more of a social gathering than a meeting so come meet your neighbors who are also interested in and or working for statehood.

In addition to being held a great pro-statehood bar & restaurant we’ll have some fun DC history games for attendees, we’ll do some strategic #DCStatehood tweeting (for those who partake in The Twitter), and pick-up your “Statehood for the People of DC” sign. Can we do all of this in just an hour & a half? Yes We Can!

It’ll be a good time so please bring a friend or neighbor!

For more details contact Josh Burch at unitedforstatehood@gmail.com

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President Obama’s ‘To Do’ List for DC Statehood

The Washington Post Editorial Board recently wrote that with two years left in his term President Obama “has time to make a difference with this [statehood] critical matter of civil rights.” Calling for President Obama to create a commission on DC voting rights however, is a far cry from what the District needs from the President. After trying every legislative trick in the book over the last 40 years to incrementally improve our status statehood still remains our ultimate goal. We don’t need a commission to tell us what we already know: statehood is the only permanent path to full equality in the American union, anything short of that is unequal status and thus unacceptable. What we need is not a commission, what we need is leadership and President Obama should step up provide it.

If Mr. Obama wants to make a contribution to the statehood cause, and I surely hope he does, here are four substantive and practical actions that he take to help the cause over the next two years. First, his administration’s silence on the statehood bill’s hearing on September 15th was so glaring that even Senator Coburn brought it up. The record for the hearing is open until September 30th and the President should require that Attorney General Holder, who recently voiced his opinion for full voting rights for the District, to submit testimony in favor of the statehood bill. The nation’s chief lawyer should weigh in on why the Administration views the bill as constitutionally sound and morally just.

Second, while the President’s political clout has waned over the last year and a half he still holds great sway with many in the Democratic Party. He should personally request that Democratic Senators and House members cosponsor the legislation before the end of this Congress (and in the 114th Congress) and urge Senator Carper to have a mark-up of the legislation in committee before the year ends or in the new Congress should the Democrats retain the majority in the Senate. The President should also press to have the bill be voted out of committee and then have Senator Reid have the full Senate act on this bill as he previously promised. This issue is a moral issue and the President should urge his party to lead and push it as far as they can before this Congress ends.

Third, in the New Year, the President should commit a portion of his state of the union speech to educating the American public about our status and articulating to them why statehood is the best path forward. The state of the union provides a unique opportunity to inform a nation about a problem that many of them don’t quite understand and it would show his commitment to remedying this injustice. There couldn’t be a better setting than to have a District of Columbia family sitting next to the First Lady in the Presidential Box and have the President look up and say:

“Sitting next to the First Lady is the X family, they are like every other family in America. They work hard, pay taxes, and try to be the best neighbors they can be but they are not like every other American. Unlike the citizens of the 50 states the citizens of the District of Columbia, all 646,000 of them (more than Vermont and Wyoming), are denied representation in Congress and have their locally raised budget manipulated by Congress. The story of the X family and their neighbors in the capital is an affront the principles upon which this country was founded and it is time that America remedies this situation and  it is time for Congress to act to correct this injustice. The people of the District of Columbia fulfill all responsibilities of citizenship and they deserve the full rights of citizenship that only can come through statehood. The time to make a more perfect union is now and we all should support statehood for the people of DC.”

And finally, the while the President might be the leader of his party he is also the leader of the entire nation and should raise this issue across the country when meeting with and speaking to citizens in the 50 states. Statehood won’t become a reality during his Administration but he can push the cause forward like no one else before him thus setting the stage for statehood in the next Administration (hopefully). As the leader of the nation he has a moral obligation to make the case state by state that this system needs to change and that statehood is the answer. No President, since Nixon, has ever lifted a finger to bring about substantive improvements for the District and it’s time that President Obama take a stand for a cause that is right and that is just.

District citizens don’t need a commission to tell us what we want and deserve. What we need leadership and hopefully President Obama will join our movement as an active participant and leader. We have debated and attempted all other legislative options focused on improving the District’s status and statehood remains as the only option that grants us permanent equality. A commission would simply rehash old arguments and offer the failed compromises of the past. Our right to equal treatment should not be subject to compromise.  The President has both an opportunity and responsibility to push this cause forward and I hope that he embraces it, we would welcome his support.

Josh Burch

Brookland, DC

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Lessons Learned from the Statehood Hearing

The first ever Senate hearing on the DC statehood bill, the New Columbia Admission Act (S. 132), was held on September 15, 2014, before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. No one in their right mind believed that this hearing would result in the bills passage this Congress but the hearing in and of itself was a step forward for the statehood cause. The hearing provided several positive outcomes that we must use and act upon as we continue to push, pressure, educate, and advocate for passage of this legislation in the short-term and the long-term.

Below is a rundown of positive lessons learned from the hearing:

  • People Power: Over the last twenty years the statehood movement has been relatively quiet so to have an energized crowd that filled the hearing room, the overflow room, and spilled out into the hallways around the chamber was a great sign. It showed people both care about this cause and are excited to see progress on this issue. Statehood functions often have the same cast of characters show up but the hearing was packed with many many new faces for the statehood cause.
  • A Good Friend: Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced the statehood bill in 2013 after having very little public record of supporting this cause. In 2013, Senator Carper promised to hold a hearing on the bill and while he was a year late on the hearing it’s heartening to know that he keeps his promises and that he’s motivated to do the right thing. The statehood bill seems to be in good hands in the Senate under his leadership.
  • It’s Constitutional!!!: Conservative constitutional scholar, Prof. Viet Dinh of Georgetown University, laid out a clear and concise case that 1) the courts would probably take a pass on reviewing the constitutionality of the bill; 2) should the courts take it up the bill would be deemed constitutional because Congress has vague yet broad authority under the Constitution to admit states; and 3) the New Columbia Admission Act’s path to statehood is similar to how Ohio was admitted as a state. Connecticut ceded land to the federal government for the Northwest Territory & Ohio was created out of that land which is similar to Maryland ceding land unconditionally for the creation of the federal district. So if Senator Portman (R-OH) has a problem with the constitutionality of DC statehood he needs to question the legitimacy of the office he holds and state he hails from. To have a conservative constitutional scholar make the case for DC statehood was an extremely positive development at the hearing.
  • Moral Righteousness: District citizens need to embrace the fact that this is a moral issue. We must feel this cause in our hearts and our guts and push it forward. While we are thankful for Senator Carper offering this bill and moving it forward the only way it will ever pass Congress is if we organize and get more active. This is a moral cause, a cause of right vs. wrong and we must raise our voices louder and louder to push this cause forward. Even those who do not support statehood agree that taxation without representation is unfair and unjust, Senator Coburn even said so, but we must compel those who disagree with statehood now to embrace it in the future. The responsibility lies with us, the citizens of the District not with those whom we didn’t elect in Congress. We must embrace and own this as our cause and push it forward as a moral cause.
  • Hollow Opposition: Senator Coburn and Dr. Roger Pilon served as the statehood opposition at the hearing and their testimony in many ways were fantastic because their arguments were so substantively empty and morally weak. Using the intent of the founding fathers as the backing for continuing to disenfranchise 646,000 citizens is laughable. We should never cede the moral high ground to those who created a nation that enslaved African-Americans and denied the right to vote to women. Our founders created a great structure for a democratic nation to be born but they left much to be desired with the actual details of democracy. If Senator Coburn and Dr. Pilon have the best arguments against statehood then we’re in good shape at least when a substantive (not partisan) debate is had on this issue.
  • Growing Support: The announcement of the hearing itself helped to lead to more cosponsors on both the House and Senate statehood bills. While cosponsors in and of themselves do not mean that bills will pass it does allow activists in future Congresses to focus our energy on few members of both Houses. Having a public list of known supporters allows us concentrate our efforts on a smaller number of Representatives and Senators in the coming years. The hearing helped build the list of our base supporters.

It is also worth reading pieces by Clinton Yates and Robert McCartney for their takes on the hearing and lessons learned. It was not all positive as the low turnout by other committee members was quite telling in how much traction this bill presently has but at least we know know who we really need to work on.

The hearing was not an end or a beginning for the statehood cause but it was a sound step forward. It is now incumbent upon all of us to take all of the positives from this hearing and use them to build more support for this bill. The responsibility to make the hearing a big success lies with the citizens of the District who now need to keep the pressure on, build statehood advocacy groups across the city and across the country so that we continue to spread the word that this is an American cause and this is a moral cause with which we will ultimately prevail.

Josh Burch

Brookland, DC

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Statehood Hearing – Carpe Diem

The Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC), Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), announced that there will be a hearing on September 15th for S. 132, the New Columbia Admission Act, which would grant statehood to the people of the District of Columbia. This will be the first time in over twenty years that there will be a hearing before Congress for this piece of legislation. This is an important opportunity to show the Senate & the country what we want and what we deserve, statehood. We need to seize the opportunity this hearing presents to elevate this issue both in the Senate and around the country and over the next week so let’s get to it.

Below are a few things each and every one of us could do to help push the cause forward:

  1. Email Senate Staff: Draft and send an email asking that their bosses cosponsor S. 132, the New Columbia Admission Act. You can also ask friends and family around the District or in one of the 50 states to do the same. Here’s a list of targeted Senators with staff contacts to email: senate_targetlist_2014
  2. Op-Eds: Draft and submit an Op-Ed to a paper around the country asking citizens of each state and their representatives in Congress to support the statehood legislation. Here’s a write-up on why Op-Eds are so important (http://wp.me/p1xdSF-x6) and a link for how and where to submit Op-Eds and Letters to the Editors for papers around the country (http://www.ccmc.org/node/16179)
  3. The Hearing: We need you at the hearing which is scheduled for September 15th at 3pm in the Senate Dirksen Building Room 342. We need District citizens to turn out for this hearing to both fill the hearing room and the halls of the Dirksen building. We might not all be able to testify and speak with our voices but we can speak with our bodies. Please show up wearing red (DC flag red!!!) and bring a picture of your family if they can’t join as we are all in this together. Let’s show the US Senate that the people of the District want and deserve statehood.
  4. Submit Testimony: While the witness list at the hearing is closed there is an opportunity for all of us to submit our own testimony for the record as to why we believe the Senate should pass S. 132, the New Columbia Admission Act. Please email us at unitedforstatehood at gmail.com for exact instructions on how to submit testimony by Sept. 30th, 2014. We would also like to share your testimony on our Statehood Supporters page.

Statehood is our democratic destiny and we must seize the opportunities this hearing provides us. Let’s be active, let’s be engaged, and let’s help make our country more democratic.

Josh Burch

Brookland, DC

Unitedforstatehood@gmail.com

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No Shame

American Crossroads has no shame and Senator Mary Landrieu should feel no shame. Both are simply doing their jobs but American Crossroads aired an online commercial that paints Senator Landrieu work on behalf of the District of Columbia as something unseemly and thereby shirking her duties as a representative of the people of Louisiana. While the ad might be smart politically in a conservative leaning state it’s intellectually disingenuous and misleading (sadly trademarks of many good political ads). There should be no shame on Senator Landrieu’s part because she is simply doing her job, the job which the people of Louisiana elected her to do while also promoting the basic tenets of our democracy.

There is an underlying implication in the commercial that standing up for and standing with District citizens is something that she should be ashamed of and that Louisiana voters should be mad at her for. It’s fascinatingly depressing that our body politic sees a tactical advantage in looking down upon someone who simply stands up for 660,000 US citizens who are required to pay federal taxes but are denied federal representation in Congress. Senator Landrieu, on a very small scale, has tried to give voice to the voiceless and yet somehow voters are supposed to think there is something wrong with that. If American Crossroads had either an enlightened core or a moral soul that were consistent with the beliefs articulated on their website they would be praising Senator Landrieu for standing up for the unfinished business of the American Revolution instead of condemning her.

If American Crossroads were intellectually honest (again two attributes they seemingly have neither of) they would, as Perry Stein in the Washington City Paper points out, be airing ads against Andy Harris of Maryland or Thomas Massie of Kentucky both of whom have spent considerable time and oxygen using their powers as members of Congress to meddle in the local laws of the District. And unlike Senator Landrieu their forays into local District affairs were not asked for, were unwelcome, and were contrary to the opinions and feelings of the vast majority of District citizens on their respective causes. Their actions were contrary to good principles of democratic governance but American Crossroads remained silent. Representatives Massie and Harris were congressional interlopers of the first degree yet American Crossroas remained mute on their actions which speaks volumes of their hypocrisy.

There should be no shame that our mayor referred to Senator Landrieu as ‘our Senator’ until we become the 51st state. What’s sad is that more Senators don’t act on our behalf  by listening to and respecting the will of the District citizens and standing up for us in a body where we are denied representation. Another fundamental flaw in the ad is the fact that Senator Landrieu serves on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and was previously chair over the subcommittee that had oversight of the District (since we are a federal district and all). Therefore it literally has been her JOB to work with and support the efforts of the District government. It’s part of her Senate committee assignment duties. Were she not to help the District she wouldn’t be doing her doggone job. Criticizing her for caring about the District is simply criticizing her for doing her job well and that is about as un-American as taxation without representation.

American Crossroads created a political attack ad that was as good as it was disingenuous and misleading. As a District citizen I’m not ashamed of who we are but I am ashamed at times of the country we live in when people are deemed unworthy of elective office when they simply stand up for the democratic rights of others. There is no shame in what Senator Landrieu has done for the District and I hope that she lets the people of Louisiana know that she’s been doing her job and doing it well for them and for those of us who are still denied a voice in Congress.

If American Crossroads or any other organization has a problem with her spending too much time focused on the District I suggest they get on the bandwagon for statehood for the people of DC so that we can have our own two Senators who can work exclusively on our behalf. We would welcome the change. There should be no shame associated with Senator Landrieu for simply trying to walk the talk of the American Revolution by working to respect the will of a free people by supporting our rights to have autonomy and equality in the American union.

 

Josh Burch

Brookland, DC

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