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Statehood for Washington D.C. faces uphill battle in U.S. Senate

Texas GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert says Democrats should back his proposed federal income tax exemption for D.C. residents since D.C. is not a state.

Published: April 22, 2021 2:39pm

Updated: April 23, 2021 7:20am

The Washington D.C. statehood admission bill that passed the House of Representatives on Thursday faces an uphill battle in the U.S. Senate.

The legislation would repeal the 23rd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which allows D.C. residents to vote in presidential elections. The legislation would redraw the existing boundaries of the nation's capital to create the "state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth."

The bill also would give D.C. a representative in the House and two U.S. senators. The legislation passed in the House following the debate, 216-208, along party lines.

Democrats have argued that residents of D.C. should have full representation in Congress since they pay federal income taxes.

"We come together to right a wrong; 750,000 fellow Americans are denied the right to representation in their Congress in the very place in which Congress is located," said Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly. "Ironically, the only capital in the Democratic world that denies its own citizens the right to vote to be represented. Let's right this wrong after 200 years."

House Republicans put forth an alternate proposal to allow residents of D.C. to vote in Maryland, which would give them voting representation in the House and Senate. The idea was initially proposed as an amendment to the statehood bill but the Democratic majority on the House Oversight and Government Reform committee slapped it down. It failed to gain traction after the statehood bill passed out of committee.

During debate over the bill on the House floor, Republicans said giving D.C. residents representation in the state of Maryland made more sense than creating a new state.

"My bill would reunite the residential areas of the district with Maryland, as was done with Virginia in 1847," said Republican Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota. "This plan would give full voting rights that we have heard so much about this morning, without ignoring the Constitution or the practical realities of what constitutes a state.

"And so I say to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, if your goal is truly suffrage, then let's do this together. Let's set aside the divisive rhetoric we have heard and work together to craft an appropriate and bipartisan solution to give representation to the people of D.C." 

Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris endorsed the idea of letting D.C. residents cast their ballots in Maryland.

"This is Maryland's land we are talking about," Harris said on the floor. "This land was given for the purpose of a federal enclave by Maryland. How dare the Congress take Maryland's land from it."

In a recent interview with Just the News, Washington D.C. Shadow Sen. Paul Strauss reacted to the proposal to let D.C. residents vote as part of Maryland. 

"We don't want to vote in Maryland," said Strauss. "Maryland doesn't want us to vote there. We're not part of Maryland. We haven't been since 1790. The state line between Maryland and Washington D.C. has existed since 1790. It's one of the oldest state borders ... we have states that have far fewer people than than Maryland. I mean, Wyoming could use some more people. 

"South Dakota has very few voters. I got more votes in my seat for shadow senator than the U.S. senator from North Dakota did. I mean, maybe they could use some more voters there, but nobody's going to take that seriously because having voters from one place vote in the elections of another place is just a stupid idea and it's not really worthy of any serious consideration." 

Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert said D.C. residents "shouldn't have to pay a federal income tax" since D.C. is not a state. He said Democrats over the years have opposed his effort to allow D.C. residents to be exempt from federal income tax because it would undercut their push for statehood.

"If it were about taxation without representation, I would have a slew of Democrats co-sponsoring the bill I have been filing for many terms to eliminate federal income tax in the District of Columbia," Gohmert said on the House floor, "but I was told years ago, we're not going to join in with your bill because it will weaken our chance to get a representative, full voting, from D.C. That's what this has been about." 

"This is about principle for some of us," he added, "and we got a tiny taste when the mayor of D.C. of an opposite party of President Trump wasn't sure she was going to provide the police to protect the White House. This is about the Constitution and principle."

Strauss said supporters of D.C. statehood will try to make the case that the legislative filibuster shouldn't apply to statehood bill. Currently, 60 votes are required to overcome a filibuster and advance legislation. Strauss also said Senate Democrats do not have 51 votes yet for the statehood admission bill.

Maryland Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin responded to Republicans who point to D.C.'s. history of voting for Democrats and calling D.C. statehood a "power grab."

“They don't see taxation without representation," Raskin said. "They don't see military service without representation when tens of thousands of people from the nation's capital have served America in every war that we've ever had going back to the Revolutionary War. All that they see is two new liberal Democrat senators but that cuts against everything that we believe in about American democracy. We do not deny people the right to vote based on our expectation of how they will vote."

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