While several months old, I believe it’s worth posting Senator Carper’s statement from the Congressional Record when he introduced the New Columbia Admission Act. This statement and words and assurances by Senator Carper’s staff demonstrate that we have a true ally for full democracy and statehood in the Senate.
“Mr. CARPER. Mr. President, I rise to introduce the New Columbia Admissions Act, a bill that seeks to end a longstanding injustice and give full voting representation to the residents of the District of Columbia. More than 600,000 Americans live in Washington, D.C. and bear all the responsibilities of citizenship, yet currently have no vote in either chamber of Congress. This legislation paves the way for the creation of a 51st state from the populated portions of Washington, D.C., giving the citizens who live here in our nation’s capital the voice they deserve in our national government.
Washington is not just a collection of government offices, monuments and museums; it is home to more than half a million people who work, study, raise families, and start businesses. These citizens serve in the military and die for our country just like the residents of the 50 States. They pay Federal taxes just like other Americans in fact they pay more per capita than residents of most states. But when it comes to having a voice in our Congress, suddenly these citizens do not count.
We must ask ourselves how we would feel in their place; I think most of us would quickly decide that this is not how we would want to be treated. In fact, the United States is the only democracy in the world that treats the citizens of its capital city this way. We are the only democracy, it is sad to say, that denies voting representation to the people who live in its capital city.
People have been trying to fix this injustice for almost as long as it has existed. In 1801, just one year after residents of the new Federal capital city were denied the vote, a prominent city resident began arguing for a constitutional amendment to give voting rights to residents of the District. Two years later, a House member introduced a bill to “retrocede,” or give back to Maryland and Virginia, the land that was ceded to create the District. Support for the proposal was based in large part on the political injustice of denying representation to the residents of the capital city. Even some opponents reportedly argued that the District might be granted Congressional representation once its population became more substantial, a threshold that clearly seems to have been met by a city of more than half a million people, a number comparable to several states. In 1978, the House and Senate approved a constitutional amendment to give the District full voting representation in Congress that was ratified by 16 states, but the measure died when it failed to win support from the required 3/4 of the States within 7 years. More recently, in 2009, the Senate approved a bill to give the District a voting representative in the House.
The bill I am introducing today creates a path for the District of Columbia to become the State of “New Columbia” with full voting rights in Congress. Under this bill, a federal district called Washington, D.C. would still remain under the control of Congress, as the Constitution mandates. But it would be a smaller area encompassing the White House, the Capitol, the Supreme Court and the National Mall, an area where few people actually live. The rest of the current District of Columbia, diverse neighborhoods that are home to more than half a million U.S. citizens no different from the ones you and I and our colleagues come here to represent would become a new State provided that its residents vote to set that in motion.
The bill is similar to proposals offered by Senator Edward Kennedy in the early 1990s, and by my former colleague Senator Joseph Lieberman in December 2012. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s sole, non-voting representative in the House who has worked tirelessly for voting rights for the residents of the city, has introduced a companion House bill.
I believe we keep proposing and debating different solutions to the injustice imposed on District residents because we know in our hearts that the situation we have now and have tolerated for so long is not right. It is familiar, but it is not fair and not consistent with the values we all share as Americans. It is incumbent upon those of us who enjoy the right and the privilege of full voting rights to take up the cause of our fellow citizens here in the District of Columbia and find a solution.
Earlier this week, we celebrated the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy of working to bring equality and justice to all Americans. It is in that spirit that I introduce this bill, with my colleagues Senators Barbara Boxer, Richard Durbin and Patty Murray. I hope we can work together to find a way to bring the same rights to the residents of the District of Columbia that all of us living in the 50 states cherish so much.”
The bill was introduced with Senators Boxer, Durbin, and Murray as original cosponsors and since then Senators Gillibrand, Cardin, Mikulski, and Harkin have been added. Senator Sanders has expressed his intent to cosponsor the bill as well. Including the offices listed above Neighbors United for DC Statehood has met with 43 Senate offices consisting of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents to push for more cosponsors on the statehood bill. Senator Carper’s long history of being a consensus builder makes him the perfect fit to lead the fight for statehood in the Senate.
We need more people helping us to advocate for this bill in the District, around the country, and on the Hill. To join us please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ward 5, DC