Who Stands for D.C. Statehood Now?
Todd Purdum has written a highly interesting and compelling book chronicling the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Its title is “An Idea Whose Time Has Come.”
Right here in D.C., we have an “idea” which seems far from becoming a reality: D.C. statehood.
As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, once again we should be reminded that citizens of D.C. do not enjoy the same rights as every other American.
This is very sad. Because at no time has the dream of D.C. becoming the 51st state seemed so poised for a stunning launch. Way back in November 1993, there was a vote on D.C. statehood in the House of Representatives. It received 153 votes. There never was a vote in the Senate. (Even with Jesse Jackson being the elected D.C. Statehood Senator.)
Today, the picture is far different. The D.C. Statehood Bill was introduced in January 2013 by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. The bill goes to his committee -- Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Being the committee chair, he is in charge. He determines the scheduling of hearings and the mark-up of the bill. Simply put, the bill is his to move or not to move. And this is the crucial point, Carper has not moved his own bill.
Two members of Carper’s own committee – Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska -- have personally told me they will vote for the bill. The other Democratic senators Carl Levin of Michigan, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota have not stated their position.
The key senator on the committee is Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. He is considered to be the most endangered Democrat incumbent in the Senate. Pryor has not stated his view on this subject. I have even contacted his father David Pryor, the former house member, senator and governor. No response.
Before I go further, one important person is strangely silent on this issue: the President of the United States, Barack Obama. Not a single word. Not one utterance. He obviously thinks his policy of taking us for granted will go unnoticed and unpunished. So far, he is right.
Our local elected officials are even worse. With the notable exception of Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, no one has raised their voice.
District Council Chair Phil Mendelson should be pointed out for his indifference and appalling lack of leadership. Right now, it looks like Sen. Carper will not act until after the November elections.
The time is now, before the November election. The entire Democratic leadership is a co-sponsor of the bill – along with three of D.C.’s neighboring senators (Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin of Maryland and Tim Kaine of Virginia). Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, told me he “would make it happen.” Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is no help. She sits idly by and refuses to talk to Democratic senators on the committee. This is a stunning case of incumbent malfeasance.
There are a few politicians who have spoken up in support of statehood for D.C. MaryEva Candon, the National Committeewoman from D.C., and Arrington Dixon, the National Committeeman, have been vigorous in contacting their counterparts in the National Democratic party. They are to be applauded for these efforts.
The citizenry of D.C. must act and raise the visibility of this issue. If we the vote-less and second class citizens don’t care, no one else will.
Mark Plotkin is a political analyst and contributor to the BBC on American politics.