- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 16, 2020

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced Tuesday that the House will vote on, and likely pass, a bill for D.C. statehood next Friday, marking the first time either chamber of Congress has approved legislation for making the District a state.

H.R. 51, the Washington D.C. Admission Act, will be brought to the House floor for a vote on June 26. It has more than 220 cosponsors — more than enough votes to pass. But it faces staunch opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“The speaker and I talked last week, and we both agreed this was an appropriate time to bring a bill forward,” Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said at a press conference. “To show respect for the citizens of the District of Columbia of whatever color but also to show respect to a city who has a very large African American population and they matter and they ought to be treated equally with respect and that’s what we are going to do.”

The District’s call for statehood arose anew during recent protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. National Guard troops from 11 states patrolled D.C. streets at the request of President Trump.

What’s more, White House officials expressed interest in a provision of the home rule charter that authorizes the president to federalize the Metropolitan Police Department.

Additionally, the Senate’s coronavirus aid package categorized the District as a territory, instead of a state, which is how it is usually considered for federal programs, meaning the city would lose out on $750 million in federal money to combat the pandemic.

“If D.C. were a state, it could not be short-changed as it was under the CARES Act and its residents would be protected from the kind of civil rights violations we saw in Lafayette Square all for the purpose of a photo op,” Mr. Hoyer said, referring to federal law enforcement officer forcing peaceful protesters from a park to allow Mr. Trump to pose in front of a church.

In the last two weeks, four senators have signed on to cosponsor the Senate version of the bill, bringing the total to 40 cosponsors. Mr. Hoyer said he is sure there will be more than that, and addressed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

“I hope that Senator McConnell cares enough about our democracy to allow a vote on this bill in the United States Senate, not just to pigeonhole it, not just to say to 700,000 people, ‘We don’t respect you enough to even give you a vote in the United States Senate, in which you do not have a vote,’” the congressman said.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the recent protests have drawn much more attention to the statehood issue than usual, citing an interview with James Corden on CBS’ “The Late Late Show” and an interview with rapper Lil Wayne.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting congressional representative and the bill’s chief sponsor, said that hers is one of few bills to reach the House floor this year and noted the number of its cosponsors, adding that most bills only have a few.

“Do understand that almost no bills are going to the floor this year,” Mrs. Norton said. “The virus has checked the ability of the congress of the United States to put bills on the floor except for those that are necessary for the country to proceed at all, such as our appropriations bills.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who attended the press conference, said statehood for the District is in her DNA, because of her father’s support for home rule when he was a congressman from Baltimore and chairman of the D.C. appropriations subcommittee.

Mrs. Norton said statehood is personal for her, too, because “three generations of my family have yet to attain the rights other Americans take for granted.”

She said her great-grandfather escaped slavery in Virginia and made it as far as the District, where he had “freedom but not equal citizenship.”

Statehood would put to an end one of the District’s oldest slogans, “taxation without representation,” Mrs. Norton said.

• Sophie Kaplan can be reached at skaplan@washingtontimes.com.

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