DC's long-simmering statehood push begins in Congress

·2 min read

WASHINGTON — Supporters of the District of Columbia’s quest for statehood believe the time is right to bring this long-simmering and racially charged issue to fruition. But Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser's clashes with Republicans at a House hearing Monday made clear that the issue is far from settled, even with Democrats controlling the presidency and Congress.

With a new statehood bill working its way through Congress, outnumbered Republicans are marshalling their defences — complaining about a Democratic power play, claiming statehood was never the intention of the country’s founding fathers, and insisting that Congress doesn’t even have the right to grant statehood to D.C.

Statehood would grant D.C. two senators and a fully voting member of the House. D.C. historically votes Democratic.

Bowser spent much of Monday's four-hour hearing by the House oversight committee in a series of sometimes pointed exchanges with an array of Republican committee members.

Jody Hice of Georgia repeatedly interrupted Bowser's answers, at one point saying, "You completely answered my question, so please don't continue.”

Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin also interrupted Bowser's responses, then told the committee chair he would change the subject because, “She won't answer this.”

Bowser heatedly replied, “SHE is happy to answer your question.”

Georgia Republican Andrew Clyde sought to subvert the District’s “taxation without representation” slogan that adorns local license plates. He asked Bowser if District residents would be OK with the current situation if they didn’t have to pay federal taxes — similar to the residents of Puerto Rico or American Samoa.

“The District is proud to pay its fair share of taxes,” she said. “We’re not trying to shirk our responsibilities.”

Monday’s contentious hearing provided a preview of a debate that may come to dominate the national political discourse. The racially charged subtext was impossible to miss; Washington’s local Black Lives Matter affiliate literally live-tweeted the hearing.

Massachusetts Democrat Ayanna Pressley noted that although D.C. is no longer majority Black, at 46%, it would immediately become the blackest state in the country. “D.C. statehood is racial justice issue,” she said.

Ashraf Khalil, The Associated Press