Senators Speak on Senate Floor in Support of D.C. Statehood
Senator Peters Expected to Hold a Hearing for D.C. Statehood in June
Washington, D.C. — Today, S.51 sponsor Senator Tom Carper, along with Senators Booker, Kaine, Van Hollen, and Cardin spoke on the Senate floor in support of D.C. statehood. Their speeches follow yesterday’s wave of support for D.C. statehood from nearly 40 top legal experts who sent a letter to Congress authoritatively stating that D.C. statehood is entirely constitutional. The letter, which Senator Carper and Senator Van Hollen referenced on the Senate floor, was signed by renowned scholars including Erwin Chemerinsky, Caroline Fredrickson, Leah Litman, and Laurence H. Tribe.
Stasha Rhodes, Campaign Manager of 51 for 51, stated:
“Today’s speeches are the latest signal that the Senate is committed to making D.C. the 51st state. This morning, Leader Schumer said that D.C. statehood’s ‘time has come’ — after 200 years of waiting, we agree the time is now. Senators, the House of Representatives, constitutional scholars, and a majority of Americans all support D.C. statehood. Moments like today show the statehood movement is strong, and we have built historic energy to enfranchise 700,000 D.C. residents. Now, we look ahead to a future Senate hearing, a full floor vote, and the 51st star on our flag.”
This month, 51 for 51 led over 100 groups in writing a letter calling on Senator Peters (Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee) to hold a public hearing on The Washington, D.C. Admissions Act (S.51), and Senator Peters is expected to hold this hearing next month. Going into that hearing, the bill has a record number of supporters with 46 Senators on the bill. Last month, the Biden White House put out the first ever Statement of Administration Policy in support of H.R. 51.
Highlights from today’s Senate speeches:
“Our nation’s capital is home to more than just monuments and museums, it is home to Americans who work, who start businesses, who contribute to America’s economy, just like all 50 states represented in this body,” said Senator Tom Carper (D-DE). “The District of Columbia is home to veterans…year after year, they come home to find that they have no real say in their country’s future… That’s why I view Washington D.C.’s statehood, not as a Republican or Democratic issue, not as a political issue, but as an American issue — as an issue of basic fairness and equality… To be clear, the District of Columbia is taking the same steps towards statehood that 37 other states have taken since 1791 — the same steps clearly laid out in our Constitution. This case was made clearly in a letter to Congress just this week, when nearly 40 leading constitutional scholars wrote that Congress is well within its rights to grant statehood.”
“Making D.C. a state is truly a civil rights issue. And it’s also an issue of racial justice — DC is a majority–minority city,” said Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) “This is especially urgent, as we are seeing so many states around the country enact sweeping voting laws intended to make it harder for majority-Black and Brown folks to vote. As United States senators, we have an obligation, not just to pass laws but to be stewards of democratic ideals and principles… Making D.C. a state is not just a matter of civil rights for DC — it’s about all of us.”
“There have been controversies, put bluntly, when states have sizable minority populations. The quest of Hawaii for statehood took longer than it otherwise would have because many members of this body stood on the floor and expressed concerns about whether Hawaii could be a cultural match for the United States because of the predominant AAPI and indegenous populations,” said Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA). “The state of New Mexico had a particularly rocky path to becoming a state because members of this body, including from Virginia, took the floor and raised the question about the size, the population, the percentage of New Mexico’s indigenous and Latino population. About 46% of the population of D.C. is African American. I hope we can show that the failures of the past that led to statehood for New Mexico and Hawaii to take perhaps longer than they should have…I hope we can learn something from that and can finally move to grant the 700,000+ residents of this wonderful city in our nation’s capital the ability to be a state.”
“I hear so many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle talking about the importance of democracy around the world. But when it comes to granting the people of the District of Columbia the full rights of a democracy, the right to two votes in the Senate, and a vote to the House — they’re not there,” said Senator Van Hollen (D-MD) “This is not a partisan issue — we know it shouldn’t be. We know that if every member put on a blindfold and just said, the people in District Columbia deserve a vote, without thinking of the political outcome, the people of the District of Columbia would have a state.”
“When it comes to the representation for the people of the District of Columbia, we have violated their basic rights. We are the only country in the world where citizens of their capital do not have the opportunity to vote for representatives in the national legislature. That’s not a distinction that we want to have for the 700,000 people that live in the district,” said Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) “This is not a matter of politics. This is a matter of fundamental rights. America’s strength in our values, who we are as a people, our ability to lead globally — depends upon us doing the right thing at home. [The House] has given [H.R. 51] to us — all we need to do now is take it up and pass it. So, let us act now, at long last, and do what’s right for the people of the District and do what’s right for the people of our nation.”
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51 for 51 is a coalition of D.C.-based and national groups committed to equal representation for the over 700,000 D.C. residents who remain locked out of our democracy. The coalition of 20 progressive groups believe American citizens living in the District deserve a voice in Congress and control over their own local laws. Already, President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Senators Warren, Markey, Gillibrand and Hickenlooper have endorsed 51 for 51’s proposed path to statehood.