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Congress to hold first hearing on D.C. statehood since 1993

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On July 24, District voting rights (or the lack thereof) will get the national spotlight

The District of Columbia flag

In just under two months, the U.S. House of Representatives will hold its first hearing in 26 years on legislation that would render the District of Columbia the 51st state. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Muriel Bowser, and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson mutually announced Thursday that the House oversight and reform committee—chaired by Maryland Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings—would host such a hearing July 24.

Local and national Democrats seek to spotlight D.C.’s lack of equal voting representation at the federal level now that their party controls the House after the 2018 midterm elections. A statehood bill proposed by Norton currently has a record number of cosponsors in the House (204), and a companion bill proposed by Delaware Democratic Senator Tom Carper also has a record number of cosponsors in the Senate (32). Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, is throwing her influence behind District statehood as well, with additional support trickling in.

“For 218 years, residents of the District of Columbia have lived in our country as American citizens without equal representation or equal self-government,” Norton said in a prepared statement. “Residents of the District of Columbia have served side by side other Americans in the nation’s military since the nation was created, including today. Our residents pay more per capita in federal taxes than residents of any other jurisdiction.” As of last year, D.C. had upwards of 700,000 residents—more than did Wyoming (577,737) and Vermont (626,299).

Republicans still control the Senate (not to mention, the White House), so prospects for the legislation’s ultimate passage are low for now: No Republicans have cosponsored either the House or the Senate versions of the bill. But D.C. officials and activists hope this will change.

“July’s hearing is an opportunity to educate Members of Congress and the American people on why we are more than ready to become a state,” Bowser said in a statement. “We are not asking for a handout — we are demanding for our fundamental rights as American citizens, and the rights for which many of our residents have fought and died.” The legislation would provide the District one voting representative and, as other states have, two voting senators.