Thirty-three Democratic state senators and House members are calling on the state’s congressional delegation to support Washington, D.C., statehood, in advance of a June 22 U.S. Senate hearing on the topic.
Washington D.C. statehood is a politically divisive issue – Democrats see giving the federal district’s almost 700,000 residents, a majority of whom are non-white, full representation in their national government as a civil rights question, while Republicans see it as an unconstitutional power grab that will all but guarantee the addition of two more Democrats to the Senate.
The D.C. statehood bill that passed the U.S. House in April split the state’s congressional delegation on the expected partisan lines, with all the Democrats voting for it and all the Republicans voting against it. And when a resolution opposing D.C. statehood came up in the Arizona House earlier this year, it passed 31-29 along the expected party lines.
However, what remains in question is how Arizona’s two Democratic U.S. senators, both of whom have sought to cultivate reputations as moderates who sometimes buck their party, would vote on a D.C. statehood bill. When asked this week, both indicated they haven’t decided whether to vote “yes” or “no.”
In a letter to the state’s federal delegation this week, the Arizona state lawmakers wrote: “No other democratic nation denies the right of self-government, including participation in its national legislature, to the residents of its capital. The residents of the District of Columbia lack full democracy, equality, and citizenship enjoyed by the residents of Arizona and all other states.”
The letter says the United Nations Human Rights Committee has called on the U.S. to address D.C.’s “lack of political equality” and that the Organization of American States has declared the city’s disenfranchisement a violation of its charter agreement. Twenty-three state House Democrats and 10 senators signed the letter, including the House and Senate minority leaders.
“Congress has repeatedly interfered with the District of Columbia’s limited self-government by enacting laws that impact expenditure of its locally raised tax revenue, including barring the use of locally raised revenue, which violates the fundamental principle that states and local governments are best suited to enact legislation that represents the will of their citizens,” they wrote. “Although the District of Columbia has passed consecutive balanced budgets since 1997, it still faces the possibility of being shut down yearly because of Congressional deliberations over the federal budget.”
Next week’s hearing before the U.S. Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will start at 10 a.m. Eastern time and will feature testimony from several statehood supporters, including D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and former Connecticut senator and vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman. The bill is being sponsored by Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., and has 45 co-sponsors, all Democrats. Arizona’s senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly are among the few members of their caucus who have not signed onto the bill, and neither Kelly nor Sinema, who is on the committee, has publicly committed to voting for or against D.C. statehood.
“While no legislation on Washington, D.C. statehood is currently scheduled for a Senate vote, Kyrsten has said that the admission of new states to the union is one of the most important responsibilities granted to Congress — and that having all Americans’ voices heard in our federal government through elected representatives is fundamentally important to Arizonans, and to all American citizens,” Sinema spokeswoman Hannah Hurley said June 16.