July 01, 2020

Van Hollen, Senate Democrats Hold Hearing on D.C. Statehood

Following Historic House Vote, Senate Democrats Heard from Congresswoman Norton, Mayor Bowser and D.C. Residents on Why D.C. Should Be a State

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tom Carper (D-Del.),  Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) hosted a virtual hearing to examine why Washington, D.C. should become the country’s 51st state. The hearing entitled “Statehood and Equality for Washington, D.C.” focused on the statehood process outlined in the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, as well as the need to provide voting representation in Congress and full local self-government to the more than 700,000 residents of the current District of Columbia. A video of the hearing can be viewed here.

“For far too long the people of the District of Columbia have faced taxation without representation. And the need for urgent action has only been further underscored by recent events. The District has been denied the basic right of self-governance even though its residents pay more in taxes than 22 other states – and the population of D.C. is greater than Wyoming and Vermont. The message we heard today was clear – now that the House has acted, Republican Senate Majority Leader McConnell must immediately bring this bill up for Senate consideration. It’s time for Republicans to stop treating the citizens of the District of Columbia as second class citizens and recognize their most basic right to have voting representation in the Senate and House,” said Senator Van Hollen.

Senator Van Hollen is an original cosponsor of the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, which would admit the new State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth as the 51st state of the United States and reduce the size of the federal district. On June 26, 2020, the House of Representatives voted to approve the House version of the bill, introduced by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) by a vote of 232-180 on June 26, 2020 – marking the first time a chamber of Congress has passed a bill establishing D.C. statehood.

“I am grateful for our witnesses today who spoke about what statehood would mean for Washington D.C. residents. For far too long, the people of D.C. have been denied full representation in our Democracy. Meanwhile, they keep our federal government running, serve in our military and pay federal taxes. Now is the time to act and pass H.R. 51 the Washington, D.C. Admission Act,” said Senator Stabenow.

“People often ask me why a U.S. Senator from Delaware would spend his time trying to get statehood for Washington, D.C. I tell them that, to me, this issue is all about fairness. I point them to the Golden Rule – treat other people the way you would want to be treated. In Delaware, we have a little less than a million people. We have two senators and a congresswoman who have a vote in Congress. The same goes for Wyoming and Vermont, two of the smallest states with even fewer people than Delaware and DC. Nobody would dare suggest that they or any of our smaller states don’t deserve to have representation in Congress. Yet we’ve left nearly 700,000 DC residents – the majority of whom are people of color – with no voice in this body,” said Senator Carper. “These U.S. taxpayers work, study, raise families, start businesses and serve in our military. In fact, DC residents have fought in every single American war, yet have never been afforded the right to have their voices heard on those wars in Congress. And DC residents pay more in federal taxes per capita than citizens of any other state, yet they aren’t able to have a say in how those taxes are spent. It’s why for years, Congresswoman Norton and I have reintroduced our DC Statehood bills in both Chambers – and I am so proud that last week, the House voted to advance the Congresswoman’s version and right this wrong. Here in the Senate, we still have work to do, but today’s hearing is a promising step. I want to thank Senator Stabenow for hosting today’s discussion and Congresswoman Norton, Mayor Bowser, and other leaders in this fight for appearing today and for their work to further the cause of full voting rights and equality for the people who live here in our nation’s capital. Together, we will get this done.”

“Our Constitution guarantees a right to representation for all citizens, yet we are the only democratic country in the world where citizens of our capital do not have a vote in their national legislature. The U.S. is an outlier. This is a violation of basic human rights that needs to be corrected,” said Senator Cardin. “Human rights should not be a partisan issue. Full voting rights and representation for the 700,000 citizens of the District of Columbia should not be a partisan issue. Statehood is long overdue.”

“It’s about time that the District’s 700,000 residents get proper representation in Congress and a say over how their federal dollars are spent,” said Senator Warner. “I’ve supported a Senate bill to make Washington D.C. the 51st state and I’m going to keep pushing until Virginia’s neighbors receive the same level representation they would get in any other part of our country.”

“D.C. deserves statehood. It has long met the criteria that we’ve applied throughout our history for becoming a state,” said Senator Kaine. “Making D.C. the 51st state is about protecting the civil rights of hundreds of thousands of Americans. I’m proud to support this effort.”  

The Senators heard testimony from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Mayor Muriel Bowser, Monica Hopkins with the American Civil Liberties Union, Rick Lee, the owner of Lee’s Flower and Card Shop, and James Nelson Rimensnyder, veteran and lifelong D.C. resident.