D.C. Statehood: Senate Bill By Joe Lieberman Would Make 'New Columbia' 51st State
||Thursday, December 20, 2012
WASHINGTON -- A bill moving the District of Columbia toward statehood has been introduced in the Senate.
On Wednesday, retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), and Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), introduced the bill, which would allow D.C. voters to "endorse" statehood.
As first reported by Buzzfeed, the 51st state would be called New Columbia, and would be granted full voting representation in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. The National Mall, the Capitol, federal monuments, and certain other parts of the District occupied by government buildings would not become part of this new state, but would remain under federal control. This federal area -- still called the District of Columbia -- would remain the nation's capital.
This is the first D.C. autonomy bill to be introduced in the Senate since 2009, when the Lieberman-championed D.C. Voting Rights Act passed in that chamber. That law would have granted full voting representation to the District in the House of Representatives -- though not in the Senate -- and was derailed in the House over a Senate amendment easing gun restrictions in D.C.
Mike DeBonis, a Washington Post columnist, wrote that he is unimpressed with the latest effort:
There are two weeks remaining in the 112th Congress, and lawmakers in that time will be doing little substantive work besides finding a way off the fast-approaching “fiscal cliff.”
But, hey, it’s a great time for symbolic gestures!
In that spirit, retiring Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) introduced a bill Wednesday with three colleagues to grant statehood to the District of Columbia.
D.C. "shadow senator" Paul Strauss -- a longtime statehood advocate who is elected to a position that has no official role in Congress -- told HuffPost he sees the bill differently.
"I think it's a 'f*** you' to the NRA on [Lieberman's] way out the door," Strauss said, adding that "any time you get a [statehood] bill, it's progress."
In a statement, Lieberman said, “It is long past time to give those American citizens who have chosen the District of Columbia as their home the voice they deserve in our democracy.
“The United States is the only democracy in the world that denies voting representation to the people who live in its capital city," he continued. "As I retire from the Senate after having had the great privilege of serving here for 24 years, securing full voting rights for the 600,000 disenfranchised people who live in the District is unfinished business, not just for me, but for the United States of America.”
This Senate bill, S 3696, is companion legislation to the New Columbia Admission Act, a bill introduced in 2011 by District of Columbia's non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives, Eleanor Holmes Norton.