Washington, D.C. has a larger population than Wyoming and Vermont, a larger gross domestic product than 16 states, but no voting representation in Congress. The way Congress treats Washington, D.C. is not only unique in comparison to how other countries treat their capitals, it's as if they don't care. In the HBO talk and news TV show, Last Week Tonight, John Oliver said, "We're the only democracy in the world that does this ... They [Congress members] are treating more than 600,000 people right now like children." This Sunday, the comedian spent 17 minutes speaking about the issue, bringing up a hearing in 2014 on D.C. statehood—the first hearing on D.C. statehood in 20 years—where only two Senators actually showed up. "That's not just a pathetic attendance for a hearing on Capitol Hill. That would be pathetic for a one-year-old's birthday party," said Oliver. He further described the D.C. Mayor's relationship with Congress as equivalent to a high school president's relationship with a school administration.
The argument over D.C. statehood isn't a new one, but it gained steam last December when Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) blocked D.C. from funding needle exchanges, even though Georgia has needle exchanges. Oliver said, "It seems that Congress just forces riders on D.C. whenever they disapprove of how they're spending their own money." When Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) placed a rider into an omnibus spending bill last December, Harris told Politico, "If they [D.C. residents] don't like that oversight, move outside of the federal district to one of the 50 states that is not covered by the jurisdiction of Congress as a whole." Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.'s representative in Congress, has argued for D.C. statehood for many years, even going on the satirical news TV show, The Colbert Report, in 2006 to make her case. She isn't alone in her support of D.C. statehood. According to Norton, Secretary of State and Democratic candidate for president Hillary Clinton is also supportive of the District gaining a vote in Congress.
At the end of his segment on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver sang a revised version of the U.S.'s 50 states song with a chorus of children beside him. "Let them decide the things that they need," sang the chorus. To see the full video of John Oliver's segment on Last Week Tonight, take a look at the clip above.
· Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Washington DC Statehood (HBO) [Youtube]
· 6 questions about Washington, DC, statehood you were too disenfranchised to ask [Vox]