• In Congress, Washington, D.C. leaders make pitch for statehood

    By: Jamie Dupree

    Updated:

    In the first hearing by Congress in a quarter century on the subject, leaders from the nation's capital urged a House committee on Thursday to make the District of Columbia into the nation's 51st state, as Democrats said the current political setup for the over 700,000 residents of the nation's capital wrongly denies them proper voting representation in the Congress.

    "I'm not here to talk about one person, but about 702,000 Americans who deserve full representation in this House," said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

    "What's more we pay more federal taxes per capita than any state," the Mayor added. "And we pay more federal taxes - total - than 22 states."

    It was the first time since 1993 that Congress held hearings on the idea of making Washington, D.C. into the 51st state - it's something routinely backed by Democrats, but receives folded arms and furrowed brows from many in the GOP.

    Supporters of the idea point to numbers which show the District has more people - over 700,000 - than the states of Vermont and Wyoming, and about 20,000 less than Alaska.

    While some calls for D.C. statehood have been bipartisan in the past, that was not the case on Thursday, as the reaction of GOP lawmakers at the hearing on D.C. statehood was basically one of furrowed eyebrows.

    "I think our Founders wisely gave us a Federal City," said Rep. Jodi Hice (R-GA), who joined other Republicans in saying the only way a change could be made is by a Constitutional Amendment.

    "At the end of the day, we are dealing with a Constitutional issue," Hice said at the hearing.

    Republicans not only harped on what they said was a requirement for a Constitutional amendment, but they also cited political corruption in the city as a reason to not consider the idea.

    Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) went back to 1995, when the D.C. budget was running large amounts of red ink, and Congress had to step in to create a special financial board.

    "The federal government had to take control of the D.C. budget," Jordan said - though a top city financial official said since then, the District has had 24 straight years of balanced budgets.

    Jordan also raised the name for former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, rattling off the names of other politicians who were caught up in corruption investigations.

    "We cannot ignore these facts," Jordan added.

    It's not clear if Democrats will try to bring a D.C. Statehood bill to the House floor in the 116th Congress. 

    Even if it could get through the House, it would be unlikely to make the agenda in the GOP Senate.

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