THE SENATE will hold a hearing next week on the pros and cons of D.C. statehood. In truth, lawmakers need look no further than the title of the hearing — “Equality for the District of Columbia” — to understand the fundamental issue. That the 650,000 people who live in the nation’s capital are denied their full rights as U.S. citizens is a travesty that cannot be condoned and should not be continued.
The hearing set for Monday before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is the first on the matter in more than two decades. It was called by Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), chair of the committee, who has sponsored the New Columbia Admission Act of 2013, which would shrink the federal district to a small area surrounding the White House and Capitol and admit the remainder of the District of Columbia as the 51st state. Similar legislation was introduced in the House, a record number of lawmakers have signed on to the House and Senate bills, and President Obama recently voiced his support.
Prospects for the bill becoming law — or even getting a vote — are negligible, given the lack of any Republican support and the gridlock that grips Capitol Hill. That shouldn’t detract from the importance of the upcoming hearing in focusing national attention on the city’s unequal status and, we hope, spurring efforts to correct the imbalance. There is no rational justification for denying full political participation to District residents or making their elected city officials subject to the whims of Congress in how local dollars are spent and local laws enacted.
Washington, D.C., as Sen. Carper said in introducing his bill, is more than “a collection of government offices, monuments and museums” — it is home to people who “serve in our military, fight in our wars, die for our country and pay federal taxes.” They deserve to be treated like other Americans, and it’s up to Congress to make that happen.