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WASHINGTON (AP) – The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill on Friday to make the District of Columbia the 51st state, saying Congress has a moral obligation and constitutional authority to ensure that The 700,000 residents of the city have voting rights, they are no longer subject to “taxes without representation.”
Lawmakers passed the bill, 232-180, largely along the lines of the party, which marks the first time that a House of Congress has passed a DC state bill. Minnesota Rep Collin Peterson was the only Democrat to oppose the bill. No Republican voted in favor.
The legislation now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it faces insurmountable opposition from Republican leaders.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district’s non-voting representative in Congress, sponsored the bill, saying she has both the facts and the Constitution on her side.
DC’s population is larger than that of Wyoming and Vermont, and the new state would be one of seven with populations of less than one million, he said. The city’s $ 15.5 billion annual budget is higher than that of 12 states, and DC’s triple A bond rating is higher than that of 35 states, Norton said.
Opponents, mostly Republicans, called the bill a power takeover for the firmly Democratic city, saying the nation’s founding fathers intended for the capital to be separated from the other states.
“It’s about power. Make no mistake about it, ”said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas. The bill “would fundamentally alter what DC is,” he added.
Norton, who has served as a DC delegate since 1991, said the issue is deeply personal to her and thousands of other city residents who have long been deprived of their rights. Her great-grandfather Richard Holmes escaped slavery on a Virginia plantation and “reached DC, a path to freedom but not equal citizenship,” he said. “For three generations, my family was denied the rights that other Americans take for granted.”
Congress has two options, he added. “You can continue to exercise undemocratic and autocratic authority over the 705,000 American citizens, treating them, in the words of Frederick Douglass, as” foreigners, not citizens, but subjects. “Or Congress can deliver on this nation’s promise and ideals, put End unrepresented taxes and pass the state bill.
The bill would create a new Washington state, Douglass Commonwealth, in honor of the first Virginia-born president and the Maryland-born abolitionist and former slave.
The bill would also reduce the size of the federal district to a tourist-friendly area that includes the White House, the Capitol, the Supreme Court, federal monuments, and federal executive, legislative, and judicial office buildings adjacent to the National Mall and The capitol. . Congress would maintain control of that 2-square-mile area.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser invoked Douglass as he greeted the “historic vote” bringing the city closer than ever to becoming the 51st state.
“More than 160 years ago, Washingtonian Frederick Douglass told us: Power grants nothing without demand,” said Bowser. “As Washington citizens and American citizens who pay taxes, we are demanding what is owed us: the rights guaranteed to us by the United States Constitution. It is time to fix this injustice.
Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, criticized the bill before the House vote. In a Senate speech, he rejected Washington, DC, as a city with little more to offer than lobbyists and federal workers.
“Yes, Wyoming is smaller than Washington by population, but it has three times as many mining, logging, and construction workers, and 10 times as many manufacturing workers,” Cotton said. “In other words, Wyoming is a well-rounded workers’ state.”
Cotton also criticized Democrats for prioritizing the DC state vote while there is “mob violence” on the streets. Recent protests near the White House required “the force of federal law enforcement officers under federal control,” he said.
Would you trust that Mayor Bowser would keep Washington safe if given the powers of a governor? Would you trust Marion Barry? Cotton added referring to current and former mayors, both black.
Cotton’s comments sparked outrage on social media, with many describing the comments as racist. DC has a large African American population and was once known as “Chocolate City”, although it is no longer largely black.
Supporters said the bill has become even more important after protests for racial justice in Washington and across the country. Democratic leaders scheduled the vote after the much-criticized Trump administration decision to use federal forces to clear Lafayette Square, near the White House, of peaceful protesters so President Donald Trump can announce his law and order credentials in a photo shoot.
“There shouldn’t be troops from other states in Washington, DC,” said Bowser. “There should be no federal forces advancing against the Americans, and there should definitely be no soldiers stationed around our city waiting for the attack to attack the Americans on a local police matter.”
Trump said last month that “DC will never be a state” because it would probably mean two more Democratic senators. “No thanks. That will never happen,” he said.
But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, said the rights of DC residents should transcend political calculations.
“We are the only free country in the world, from all of our research, that does not have a voting member of its parliament in its country. We call our parliament ‘Congress,'” Hoyer said.
Recent events have focused national attention on the plight of the city. Earlier this year, when Congress passed the CARES Act stimulus package, the capital was classified as a territory rather than a state, a distinction that cost Washington more than $ 700 million in federal funds.
All District laws are subject to review by a Congressional committee, which may veto or alter them by attaching passengers to federal appropriations bills. During Republican control of Congress, conservatives have tried, mostly unsuccessfully, to restrict some of the city’s liberal initiatives, such as swapping needles for drug users and abortions under its Medicaid program.