Mayor Muriel Bowser rode a bus and led a rally Monday to spotlight D.C. statehood, a topic a House committee will discuss Thursday for the first time in 30 years.
“We want everybody across these United States of America to know that we are just like them, we pay taxes just like they do, we send our people to war, just like they do,” Miss Bowser said at a press conference. “More than 200,000 Washingtonians have paid the ultimate sacrifice, fighting for democracy around the world and they demand statehood now.”
The mayor traveled on a double-decker, statehood-themed bus with a group of veterans, local lawmakers and D.C. government staff from the John Wilson Building on Pennsylvania Avenue to the U.S. Capitol to drum up excitement for statehood and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on statehood Thursday.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress, said that once the Washington, D.C. Admission Act is passed in the Democrat-controlled House, the version in the Republican-led Senate will gain more co-sponsors.
“Don’t even worry about McConnell, he will not be there much longer,” Mrs. Norton said, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican and a staunch opponent of D.C. statehood.
Earlier this year, Mrs. Norton introduced the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, which calls for establishing the District as the state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, with full congressional representation — i.e., two senators and a voting House member.
The House version of the statehood bill (H.R. 51) has more than 200 co-sponsors, and the Senate version (S.B. 631) has just over 30.
Senior Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have indicated that D.C. Council member Jack Evans’ ethics scandal could hurt the District’s chances at statehood.
Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mark Meadows of North Carolina sent a letter Monday to Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat and committee chairman, urging him to invite Mr. Evans to testify at Thursday’s hearing.
The committee is scheduled to hear from Miss Bowser; D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson; D.C. Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt; Kenneth Thomas, a legislative attorney at the Congressional Research Service; and Kerwin Miller, a veteran and District resident.
“In light of allegations that Evans exploited his official position with the DC government to engage in self-dealing for personal financial gain, Members must fully understand the nature and extent of Evans’s action to properly assess and consider H.R. 51,” the House Republicans wrote in the letter.
Miss Bowser said Monday that she won’t be “tricked” into the discussion of statehood focused on Mr. Evans.
“We won’t be dissuaded by anybody that wants to focus on one person, or one man, when we are talking about 700,000 people who pay taxes and who do not have a vote in that congress and do not have two senators,” the Democratic mayor said.
Bernie Siler, a veteran of Operation Joint Endeavor and Afghanistan, said the fact that he served the country while he and other residents didn’t have representation in Congress speaks to his “loyalty and love” of the country.
“We did what we were told, we went where we were sent knowing we had no voice in those decisions, so for this bill to be passed would mean vindication for all the years of injustice,” said Mr. Siler, who lives in Ward 4.
Peggy Gilgannon, a 70-year-old retired news photographer in Ward 6, was one of more than a hundred people who attended Monday’s rally. She said she feels like a “second-class citizen” who is not “allowed to have her own viewpoints” because Congress has the power to disapprove of D.C. legislation.
“What’s happening in D.C. is not American,” Ms. Gilgannon said.
Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress is authorized to administer the District as the seat of the federal government. All D.C. laws must first be approved by Congress to take effect.
The statehood movement has waxed and waned over decades without success regardless of which party has controlled Congress and the White House.