Washington Statehood: ‘New Columbia’

Photograph by Alex Wong/Getty Images

A Washington, D.C. ‘TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION’ license plate on Vice President Joseph Biden’s limousine.

Taxation without representation.

It’s a storied complaint in American history.

In Washington, D.C., it’s a license plate.

For all the failures of Washingtonians to gain recognition from the Congress that operates in their own home town, a long-denied bid for statehood for the District of Columbia or even some measure of independence more stately than the landlord relationship they have with the congressional committees that approve their civic budgets has yielded little more than the license plates complaining about all the taxes people pay in the district with the nation’s highest wages and the lack of representation they have in the House and Senate.

They did convince President Barack Obama to slap the “Taxation Without Representation” D.C. plates on his armored limousines for his inauguration.

“Attaching these plates to the presidential vehicles demonstrates the president’s commitment to the principle of full representation for the people of the District of Columbia and his willingness to fight for voting rights, home rule, and budget autonomy for the district,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Jan. 17,

And now, once again, senators are introducing a statehood bill. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of  Illinois has joined Sens. Tom Carper of Delaware, Barbara Boxer of California and Patty Murray of Washington in introducing the perennial D.C. statehood bill.

Call it New Columbia.

The 51st state would have full voting rights in Congress, and a federal district called Washington, D.C., encompassing the White House,  Capitol, Supreme Court and National Mall would still remain under the control of Congress, as the Constitution mandates, under the bill. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton , the non-voting delegate from D.C., introduced companion legislation in the House earlier this month.

“”Washington, D.C. is not just a collection of government offices, monuments and museums; it is home to more than 600,000 people who work, study, raise families, and start businesses,” Carper says. “These citizens serve in our military, fight in our wars, die for our country, and pay federal taxes. But when it comes to having a voice in Congress, suddenly these men and women do not count.”

“With the 57th presidential inauguration just days behind us, it might surprise some students of American history to know that it wasn’t until the 1964 election that residents of the District of Columbia were finally able to cast a ballot for President and Vice President of the United States,” says Durbin. “”Unfortunately, the disenfranchisement of these citizens is not yet a relic of history.”

“We live in the only democracy in the world that denies voting representation to residents of its capital city,” adds Murray. “Residents of the District of Columbia have been denied their right to fully participate in our democracy for far too long, and this legislation would finally give them a voice.”


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