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Fenty budget omits D.C. statehood-bid funds

- The Washington Times - Friday, May 14, 2010

Two D.C. Council members want to know why Mayor Adrian M. Fenty failed to put funds in his fiscal 2011 budget for the push for statehood - an issue he supports and that would give D.C. residents the congressional voting rights that have been repeatedly thwarted.

At a committee hearing Wednesday, council member Michael Brown said he was concerned "there is no funding for additional statehood activities." In this years budget, $100,000 was included to promote and lobby for statehood.

D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander, who chairs the committee that oversees statehood efforts, vowed to push D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton on "statehood," not just congressional voting rights, and said the funding could be restored, "possibly next week."

"My committee is still going to work hard and lobby," she said.

On Thursday, when asked whether the defunding was an oversight and whether the mayor still supports D.C. statehood, a spokeswoman for the mayor said via e-mail that the Mr. Fenty "is supportive of full voting rights for residents."

In his inaugural speech in January 2007, Mr. Fenty was emphatic about his position on statehood.

"Together, we pledge steadfastly that our goal is to become the 51st state. None of us can, or should, rest easy until we all have the opportunity to participate fully in our great democracy," Mr. Fenty said.

Earlier this year, city officials insisted a D.C. voting rights measure in the House be withdrawn because an amendment would have expanded gun rights in the city. Republicans added the gun measure, they say, to derail the effort that appeared headed for passage.

Because Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution says members of Congress must be elected "by the People of the several States," the 600,000 residents of the District, a federal territory, have no voting congressional representation. Its designation as a federal territory also puts the District under the control of Congress, which has authority over most city laws.

Attempts to give the District voting rights have made it to the House floor twice.

In 1978, a constitutional amendment that would have given the District representation in the House and the Senate was passed by Congress, but failed to be ratified by the required number of states. In 1993, a measure granting the District statehood was easily defeated in the House, by a 277-153 vote.