More than 700,000 Americans live mere kilometres from the US Capitol but have no power to elect a representative with voting power inside the building. Residents of Washington DC are required to pay federal taxes, follow federal laws and serve in the military when drafted.
Yet their highest elected federal representative, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, cannot vote on bills and only sits on committees. Even laws passed by the DC city council are subject to congressional approval. It’s all because the seat of US government is not a state but rather a federal district — the only of its kind in the US, and the world.
For decades, residents of Washington DC have fought for statehood, only to face resistance from members of Congress, especially Republicans, who represent the rest of the country. But following a tough year for the city and a Democratic takeover of the federal levels of power, the issue of DC statehood is once again entering the national debate. Proponents say they’re more hopeful than ever that change is close at hand.
The Capitol riot breathed new life into the long-running debate
The path to statehood winds through Congress but it starts with approval from DC itself — and residents have never felt more strongly about it.
An overwhelming majority of the city, 86 per cent, supported a push for statehood in 2016. Among them was Kim Greenfield Alfonso, a fourth-generation Washingtonian.
“My father is 87 and he said, ‘boy, I have dreams of that.’ Through his lens, that would never come to being,” she said.
Ms Greenfield Alfonso believes the number of locals supporting statehood could be higher given the conversations she’s hearing today. DC residents are well aware of their lack of representation, she said.
The riot at the US Capitol on January 6 added another level of urgency: Concern for physical safety. “I think what woke a lot of people up in DC around statehood is when we all realised the mayor did not have authority over calling in the National Guard,” she said.
Because DC Mayor Muriel Bowser needed federal approval to summon the extra troops, Capitol Police officers — many of whom are DC residents — were overwhelmed and outnumbered, unable to stop the mob from breaking in. More than 130 officers were injured.
Shared from ABC News
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