Yes, that actually happened during Thursday’s hearing on a bill that would make the District the 51st state by carving out a small enclave — basically the Mall, the White House, the Capitol and various government buildings — to remain under federal control. “What strikes me is how small this enclave is proposed to be,” said Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) as he questioned an attorney with the Congressional Research Service testifying about legal issues. “Where do you park?” The attorney said he takes the Metro, but Mr. Massie pressed on: “Some of my staff actually park out where the new state would be. . . . a lot of Capitol Hill staff would be parking outside of the federal enclave. Doesn’t it seem like there would be some influence if the congressional staff had to appeal to the new state to park?”
The clumsy attempt to show how undue pressure could be brought to bear on the federal government was not the only low moment as Republicans tried to seize on the scandal surrounding D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) as a reason the District should not be a state. If being free of questionable or corrupt politicians were a requisite for statehood, there are scant few that would qualify.
Even though the statehood bill is likely to pass the Democratic-controlled House, it has no chance of even getting to the floor of the Republican-controlled Senate. But Thursday’s hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform was an achievement in that it was the first on statehood in a generation, and D.C. officials rose to the occasion in shining a light on the District’s disenfranchisement and the need for some solution.
Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) gave powerful voice to the inequities of D.C. residents paying taxes and serving in wars without having a vote in Congress, and she more than held her own against the sometimes hostile questioning. Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey S. DeWitt and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) touted the city’s robust financial health and booming population. That the District is still not trusted to manage its own affairs but must submit local laws for Congressional review is an affront. Indeed, one could argue the District is better at governing than those who sit in Congress.