Republican senators came out swinging Wednesday against a bill passed in the House last week that would make the District of Columbia the 51st state.
“From a South Carolina point of view, this is a very bad deal,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters.
Republicans and Democrats held dueling news events Wednesday on the bill, which would give the district two senators and one House representative with full voting rights, along with other authorities.
Republicans accused Democrats of trying to grow their influence in the Senate, while Democrats said giving the District’s population of more than 700,000 their own voting members in Congress is their right as Americans.
Graham said he hoped Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calls up the bill for a vote, saying he wants senators “to be on the record” on the issue, calling the move unconstitutional.
McConnell has shown no interest in bringing up the bill, and President Donald Trump vowed to veto it if it were to reach his desk.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., struck a defiant tone during a virtual press conference held by Democrats, saying if McConnell won’t allow a vote, “we’re just going to replace Mitch McConnell so that we can bring it up first thing next year.”
Critics say the bill goes against the Founding Fathers’ vision and violates the 23rd Amendment, which granted D.C. residents the right to vote in presidential elections. (The legislation calls for a swift vote to repeal the 23rd Amendment.)
Advocates point out that Washington’s population is greater than that of Wyoming and Vermont, and its residents pay federal taxes, unlike other U.S. territories.
Graham was joined by Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Steve Daines, R-Mont., who noted a Gallup poll that found a majority of Americans believed Washington should not be a state.
Daines suggested outside the Washington area — “where the real people are,” he said — they don’t believe it should be granted statehood.
Daines’ comments were criticized by Democrats and Washington officials who took them as an implication that residents of the majority-minority city, many of whom work in the private sector, were not “real people.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer called the remarks “dehumanizing” and said it was “utterly despicable” to suggest those who live in Washington are not real people. Schumer was joined by District officials, senators from Virginia, Maryland and Delaware and other advocates.
Critics of statehood argue that the District should be retroceded to Maryland if it wants representation in Congress, and Wednesday was no exception among the Republican senators.
The House bill sponsor, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., pointed out in debate on her bill Friday that an amendment to return Washington back to Maryland “did not have the consent of Maryland.”
Article IV, Sec. 3 of the Constitution has this to say about the creation of new states: “New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.”