D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser sparred with GOP lawmakers in a congressional hearing on Monday over the arguments on turning the city into the 51st state, as Democrats called for representation in Congress and Republicans dismissed the calls as politically driven.
The clashes come as Democrats are pushing the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, which would grant the District of Columbia statehood.
Democrats say the residents of D.C. deserve to vote in Congress. Republicans decry the push as a political ploy from liberals to try to get two Democratic senators and a voting House member in the left-wing city. Washington’s elected representative to the House, Del. Eleanor Norton Holmes, does not have voting representation that is afforded to other United States lawmakers.
“We are here to demand that the 220-year history of us not being represented in the capital of our country be corrected,” Bowser said during the House Oversight Committee and Reform Committee hearing.
Republicans hit back, arguing the legislation is unconstitutional.
“Should every city have two U.S. senators?” the top Republican on the committee, Rep. James Comer of Tennessee, asked.
Bowser replied: “Every American, congressman, who pays taxes deserves representation. Our congresswoman should have a vote and we should have two senators. Citizens of other cities and states in the United States of America have two senators, we do not.”
Comer accused Democrats of a “political game.”
“We’re going to make the argument, Madam Chair, that many Democrat presidents, many Democrat attorneys general have made in the past … H.R. 51 is an unconstitutional bill,” Comer said. “I think that most people here realize that. I think this is another political game that the Democrats are playing, but hopefully … we can work together in truly bipartisan ways on the things the American people sent us to do.”
Bowser’s decision to testify on the issue comes as D.C. has one of the worst vaccine rollouts in the country. It’s one of just two states or districts, along with Utah, where less than 10% of population has gotten two doses of the vaccine, according to the latest vaccination data from the CDC.
A popular point of contention from pro-statehood side throughout the hearing was the population of Washington in comparison to other sparsely populated states. With roughly around 712,000 District residents, the city has more inhabitants than both Wyoming, which has about 582,000 residents, and Vermont at 623,000.
As the debate continued, GOP members of the committee argued that granting statehood to Washington, D.C., would shift the axis of power in Congress even further to the left.
“From what I am hearing this Democratic-led Congress is attempting to use a razor-thin majority that it has to entrench itself in power by passing measures such as H.R. 1 to nationalize our elections then moving to add two additional Democrats to the Senate by attempting to make D.C. a state,” Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. said during the hearing.
In the 2020 election, 93% of district residents voted for President Biden over Republican Donald Trump.
D.C. statehood already passed the House last June, but it died in the GOP-led Senate. House leadership is committed to bringing up statehood for a vote again this year and 214 Democrats have co-sponsored the legislation – or just about all of the 220-member Democratic caucus.
With the Senate now in Democratic hands, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., is leading the effort there for statehood. So far, his statehood legislation has 40 of the 50 Democratic senators signed on as co-sponsors. However, without changing the legislative filibuster, Carper would need the support of at least 10 Republicans to meet the 60-vote threshold to advance – an uphill climb in a divided Senate.
Democrats have unsuccessfully pushed statehood before: the New Columbia Admission Act failed in 1993 on the House floor even with a Democrat majority. House Democrats that year split their votes, with 151 in favor and 105 voting against, and only one vote in favor from Republicans plus a vote in favor from the only independent at the time, the liberal Vermont Rep. Bernie Sanders.
Fox News’ Marisa Schultz contributed to this report.