A Connecticut resident wrote to Senator Chris Murphy asking him to support D.C. Statehood. Below is the full response which was shared with me followed by my responses to it as there is a lot to unpack and clarify with his letter:
Thank you for contacting me about voting rights and statehood for U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. I appreciate your correspondence and hope that you find this response helpful.
Currently, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico are each represented by a single delegate in Congress. While the Constitution did not provide specific guidance on how territories should be represented in Congress, under current congressional rules, these delegates share many of the same privileges that members of the House of Representatives enjoy. These delegates can speak on the House floor, propose bills and amendments, and serve and vote in committees. However, delegates from U.S. territories do not have the right to vote on the House floor, which would violate Article 1 of the Constitution. Additionally, residents of U.S. territories are prevented from voting in Presidential elections, as Article 2 of the Constitution only allows states to appoint electors. Allowing territories to vote in presidential elections would require an amendment to the Constitution.
The District of Columbia also has representation and partial voting rights in Congress. Currently, the District is represented by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who shares the same congressional rights as delegates from U.S. territories. After ratification of the 23rd Amendment in March 1961, District residents may vote in Presidential elections. A number of different proposals have been put forward to change the status of Washington, D.C. Advocates for statehood have suggested making the District the 51st state, with full representation in Congress. D.C. statehood bills have been introduced in 1993, 2007, and 2009, but have failed to pass. Others have suggested that Maryland should absorb the District, as the current territory of the District was ceded to Congress by Maryland in 1790.
Please be assured that I will be sure to keep your concerns in mind if legislation concerning voting rights or statehood for territories or the District of Columbia ever comes before me in the Senate.
Thank you again for contacting me about this matter. I appreciate hearing from you and assure you that I will always do my best to represent the views of my constituents in the Senate. In the future, please do not hesitate to call me in my Connecticut office at (860) 549-8463 or in my Washington office at (202) 224-4041.
Every Best Wish,
Christopher S. Murphy
United States Senator
Let’s now clear a few things up:
- This letter does not accurately portray the Senator’s position. At a DC Moms Demand Action event in 2017, that my wife and a room full of other people were at Senator Murphy openly expressed his support for D.C. Statehood. All this letter should have said was: “I do support equal voting rights for the 700,000 people of DC and their right to have autonomy over their local affairs thus I support D.C. Statehood. Thank you for contacting my office!”
- Saying we have “partial voting rights” is both technically accurate and should enrage all who love democracy. Why should any Americans have “partial voting rights?” Our situation is totally unacceptable and he should be calling it what it is, an undemocratic injustice.
- It’s true that “advocates have suggested making the District the 51st state” but more importantly the people of DC voted overwhelmingly for statehood in 2016. At the ballot box we overwhelmingly advocated for D.C. statehood with 86% of people voting in favor of it. The people of DC have sent a crystal clear signal to the country and Congress that we want to be the 51st state. Senator Murphy shouldn’t just chalk this issue up to “advocates” because everyday voters expressed their free will on what they think our democratic destiny should be: statehood.
- He says that “D.C. statehood bills have been introduced in Congress in 1993, 2007, and 2009 but have failed to pass.” This is true about the 1993 bill but not true about 2007 & 2009 as those bills would have perpetuated partial representation by granting DC a full member of the House and Utah an additional member of the House. Those bills would have done NOTHING to grant the people of DC Senators nor autonomy over our own affairs. In 2012, Senator Joe Liebermann (I-CT) introduced the first D.C. statehood bill in the U.S. Senate in 18 years before he retired. In 2013, Senator Tom Carper took over as the lead sponsor of the statehood bill and even held the first ever Senate Hearing on D.C. Statehood. The statehood bill, S. 1278, currently has a record 28 Senate cosponsors including his Connecticut colleague, Senator Richard Blumenthal. The current House statehood bill, HR 1291, has a record 165 cosponsors including ALL of Connecticut’s Representatives.
- The bills in 2007 & 2009 should also be known to Senator Murphy because they died after Republicans added an amendment pushed by the NRA that would gut all of DC’s local gun laws. The people of DC rose up and said our right to have one vote in the House was not worth revoking our gun laws. Senator Murphy, who is the leader of sensible gun law reform in the Senate, should be acutely aware that the U.S. Senate put guns over the right for people to have even a little bit more ‘partial representation.” This is why we want statehood because it is the only way to permanently grant us equal representation in Congress as well as autonomy over our own affairs.
- Why in the hell is he giving any credence to retrocession? Neither the people of DC nor the people of Maryland want that. Please respect our vote for statehood!
- There should be no “if” statement about a statehood bill coming before is a statehood bill before the Senate, it definitely won’t be voted on in committee or on the floor of the Senate so he should consider and cosponsor it just like he has cosponsored hundreds of other bills in Congress this session that will never see the light of day.
That’s all I have for now but if you’re equally or even partially angered by this milktoast response please do call (202.224.4041), write, or tweet at Senator Murphy and ask your family and friends to do the same. He should follow through on his words from 2017, and support D.C. Statehood by cosponsoring S. 1278.