After untold years of stalling, the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives has finally set a vote for the District of Columbia to have statehood. The move sets the stage for at least 320,000 African-Americans to have democratic representation.
“Statehood is the only thing that will put the 700,000 residents of the district of Columbia on equal footing with the residents of the 50 states,” said Josh Burch, founder of Neighbors United for DC statehood. “Statehood is the only thing that gives us equitable representation in congress and it’s the only thing that can give us autonomy over our affairs.”
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-MD, picked June 26 as the date for the House to hold a floor vote on DC becoming the nation’s 51st state. As it currently stands, the district does not have the benefit of two U.S. senators and a House member with full voting rights. Residents say this is a gross injustice for African-Americans who make up roughly half the district’s population. Hoyer only recently began favoring DC statehood, himself, and has a history of opposing it.
U.S. founders originally intended for the district to be directly represented by the federal government, rather than a local body. But over the years, that edict has become more of a burden as liberal-minded locals butt heads with conservative, anti-abortion, pro-gun leaders in Congress.
One example is the absence of DC residents’ authority over their own money. Burch told The Lighthouse that budget-based decisions made by local representatives must be approved by Senate leaders, whose political feelings do not square with the district’s large-minority population.
“Even though the vast majority of the revenue for our local budget is raised locally, through local property taxes and local income taxes, that budget has to be approved by congress,” Burch said. “There have been disputes between what the local government wants to do and what Republicans in congress want to do, whether its guns, abortion, or sometimes its labor laws in terms of protection for union workers. There’s different ways congress can work to amend district laws or refuse to allow us to fund our own laws.”
Washington DC is not allowed to use its own local money to fund abortions, for example, purely because anti-abortion senators will not allow it. Congress has also worked to stymie gun regulation favored by up to half of district residents, and Senate leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and his Congress used DC’s status as a territory to cheat the district out of about $755 million in funds from a coronavirus relief bill, which absolutely infuriated district leaders.
President Trump opposes the move to grant DC statehood, however, and called any suggestion to do so “very, very stupid”. This has everything to do with giving Black people the power to vote. The district has an overwhelmingly Democratic voter base, and the two new senators and one House member that the district would send to Congress stand a very good chance of being African-American.
“D.C. will never be a state,” Trump told the New York Post. “You mean District of Columbia, a state? Why? So we can have two more Democratic — Democrat senators and five more congressmen? No, thank you. That’ll never happen.”
The thing is, however, that it just might happen regardless. Recent polling suggests a clear vulnerability for incumbent Republican senators in Arizona, Colorado and Iowa, on top of nearly-foregone losses like U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who sank herself this past year by throwing her support behind the unpopular Trump. Collins’ poll numbers actually first began to crumble months ago, after she supported the confirmation of controversial Supreme Court Justice and confirmed sex-pest Brett Kavanaugh.
Couple a possible Republican loss of the Senate with the likely success of Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden—who is looking better and better in recent polls—and the possibility grows for passage of DC statehood in the House and Senate, and for a presidential signature in early 2021, if the numbers come together.
Burch said he remains hopeful of the upcoming vote because statehood would prevent events like the thuggish attack on Lafayette Square, where Trump sent police to gas and evict legal, peaceful protestors so he could pose for cameras with a backwards Bible.
“My rights as an American shouldn’t be determined by my party registration,” Burch said.
The district’s population currently is larger than that of Vermont and Wyoming.