Politics

House Adopts Bill To Make Dc 51st State; Senate Gop Opposes

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democratic-controlled House approved a bill Friday to make the District of Columbia the 51st state, saying Congress has both the moral obligation and constitutional authority to ensure that the city’s 700,000 residents are allowed full voting rights, no longer subject to “taxation without representation.″

Lawmakers approved the bill, 232-180, largely along party lines, marking the first time a chamber of Congress has passed a D. C. statehood bill. Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson was the sole Democrat to oppose the bill. No Republican voted for it.

The legislation now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it faces insurmountable opposition from GOP leaders.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district’s non-voting representative in Congress, sponsored the bill, saying it has both the facts and Constitution on its side.

D. C.’s population is larger than those of Wyoming and Vermont, and the new state would be one of seven with populations under one million, she said. The city’s $15.5 billion annual budget is larger than those of 12 states, and D.C.’s triple-A bond rating is higher than those of 35 states, Norton said.

Opponents, mostly Republicans, called the bill a power grab for the firmly Democratic city, and said the nation’s founding fathers intended the capital to be separate from the other states.

“This is about power. Make no mistake about it,″ said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas. The bill would “fundamentally alter what D. C is,″ he added.

Norton, who has served as D. C. delegate since 1991, said the issue is deeply personal for her and thousands of other city residents who have long been disenfranchised. Her great-grandfather Richard Holmes escaped slavery at a Virginia plantation and “made it as far as D.C., a walk to freedom but not to equal citizenship,″ she said. ”For three generations my family has been denied the rights other Americans take for granted.″

Congress has two choices, she added. “It can continue to exercise undemocratic, autocratic authority over the 705,000 American citizens, treating them, in the words of Frederick Douglass, as ‘aliens, not citizens, but subjects.’ Or Congress can live up to this nation’s promise and ideals, end taxation without representation and pass” the statehood bill.

The bill would create a new state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, in honor of the Virginia-born first president and the Maryland-born abolitionist and former slave.

The bill also would 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 the federal executive, legislative and judicial office buildings adjacent to the National Mall and the Capitol. Congress would retain control of that 2-square-mile area.

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser invoked Douglass as she hailed 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 concedes nothing without a demand,″ Bowser said. “As Washingtonians and as taxpaying … (Read more)

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