On December 19th, 2012, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Patty Murray (D-WA) introduced S. 3696, the New Columbia Admission Act, in the US Senate. This bill would admit the residential and commercial portions of the current District of Columbia as the 51st State of the Union and would keep a smaller area of federal buildings and properties as the “federal district” required in the Constitution. While the bill won’t pass this year nor will it get a vote this is a symbolic victory for the Statehood movement. The Senate has not had a DC Statehood Bill for the residential and commercial portions of the current District since 1993 when Senator Ted Kennedy sponsored that bill.
Over the last several weeks we’ve been meeting with Senate offices to discuss this bill and at each and every meeting we have to educate staff on the specifics of the bill, why its constitutional, and why statehood is the right path forward. 19 years is a long time since the last statehood bill so this provides us with an opportunity to discuss the issue. We no longer have a historical or theoretical bill to discuss, we have a real bill with several co-sponsors. Between now and the end of the congressional session we need to seize this finite opportunity and do three things:
- Meet with Senate staff: Staff are the gatekeepers often times to what issues their bosses embrace and we have hundreds of Senate staffers who were not around in 1993 and probably have never discussed DC Statehood with anybody. In the meetings I’ve had over the last few weeks only a few offices have ever even thought about DC Statehood, most don’t have it on their radar. Now’s the time to engage and educate staff, not for this Congress but for next!
- Co-sponsorship: We need to get as many Senators as possible to sign on to this bill as a cosponsor. The more support we have now the more palatable this bill will look in the future. In 1993, the bill had 17 cosponsors which we might not get in 2 weeks but there are over 10 Senators around right now that supported the bill in 1993 while in the House or in the Senate. We should get at least 10 cosponsors this year.
- New Lead Sponsor: Senator Lieberman is the lead sponsor and based on Committee assignments neither Senators Boxer or Murray would be good lead sponsors in the next Congress. Therefore, we need to see if Senator Durbin who is on the Judiciary Committee would like to be the lead sponsor or find someone else willing to champion our cause. The two best committees to find lead sponsors would either be Judiciary or Homeland Security and Government Affairs.
They didn’t give us much time but we do have time to make progress on this issue before the end of the year and the end of the 112th Congress. If you’d like to get involved this year or next please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
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