The Push for Washington, D.C. Statehood

No taxation without representation. We’ve all heard this phrase before. The very existence of the United States of America is a result of a war that was fought because the American people refused to pay taxes to a government in which they had no voice. Although the American Revolution was successful, not all of the ideals we fought for have been upheld. 

One of the most glaring examples of this comes in the form of our nation’s capital. Citizens living in the District of Columbia bear all of the responsibilities of United States citizenship without enjoying the benefits. They, like all U.S. citizens, are expected to pay taxes and sign up for selective service. In fact, D.C. residents pay more per capita to the Federal Government than any of the fifty states. Still, they do not receive equal representation.

Washington, D.C., has a single delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives, who has the power to draft legislation but cannot vote. In the Senate, Washington, D.C., residents have no voice at all. They have no say in how their tax dollars are spent. 

In addition to the lack of representation in Congress, Washington, D.C.’s classification as a district (rather than a state) creates a number of problems for its residents. During the insurrection at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, it was the D.C. Metropolitan police who were called in to restore order. In other words, the District of Columbia has been given the task of protecting the seat of a government in which it receives virtually no representation.

Furthermore, Washington, D.C., was denied $755 million in emergency funding under the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act which, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, was intended to “provide fast and direct economic assistance for American workers, families, and small businesses, and preserve jobs for American industries.” People living in the District of Columbia are still considered United States citizens, so why is it that they are being denied access to benefits intended for Americans?

The United States Census Bureau estimates Washington, D.C.’s population at 705,749 people. This means that if Washington, D.C. is granted statehood, it will be more populous than both Wyoming and Vermont. More importantly, it will be the only state in the nation to have a Black plurality, meaning that Black people comprise the state’s largest racial group. This would make Washington, D.C., more likely to elect Members of Congress who would represent Black interests. Given the increased visibility of systemic racism in the past year, this could be a huge step toward racial equality in the United States.

A hearing was held on Monday, March 22 to examine the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, a bill introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington, D.C.’s non voting Delegate. 

During the hearing, opponents of statehood made a number of arguments against this legislation. One popular objection is the argument that the proposed bill is a power grab designed to grant more power to the Democratic party. While it is true that Washington, D.C., has a long history of voting overwhelmingly for Democrats, particularly in presidential elections, statehood should not be a partisan issue. Every citizen of the United States, regardless of where they live, deserves equal representation by the Federal Government. Arguing that a certain group of people should remain disenfranchised because of who they might vote for is simply not right. 

Another argument against statehood is that it would be unfair for one state to be the nation’s capital. This is true, but it is not relevant to the proposed legislation. The 51st state, which would be known as Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, would not be the nation’s capital. The proposed state map excludes a small area surrounding the National Mall as well as other federal properties. This area would not be a part of any state and would remain the seat of the Federal Government.

With consideration to all of the above points, there is no legal or moral justification for the continued disenfranchisement of residents of our nation’s capital. Granting statehood to Washington, D.C., is a necessary step to ensure the fair and equal representation of all U.S. citizens by the Federal Government.

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