John Oliver, the most serious man in fake news these days, went big — 17 minutes big! — on D.C. statehood during his show Sunday night.
Highlighting what he described as the hypocrisy inherent in the District’s lack of budget autonomy and absence of voting rights in Congress, Oliver made the case that perhaps the D.C. mayor’s relationship with Congress isn’t all that different from a high school president’s relationship with a school administration.
“Sure Kelsey, pick the theme for prom but we’ll control the budget and ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ is not an acceptable theme,” Oliver said Sunday on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.” “We are not having a repeat of last year. It was a mess and surprisingly boring.”
Oliver also hit pro-states rights Republicans on the often humorous ways he says they use to rationalize their staunch anti-D.C. statehood stances.
“Well, when my kids were young and teenagers they often want budget autonomy too,” Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) has said, before being asked if he views D.C. leaders as children. “No, but they have matured and we just don’t want regression.”
For D.C. residents, these less-than-logical explanations (hey, we do have “taxation without representation” written on all our license plates) are nothing new.
Residents have long heard D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s blustery speeches on the House floor framing D.C.’s lack of voting representation as a major civil rights issue, and generally know that D.C. has a bigger population than Vermont and Wyoming and larger gross domestic product than 16 states. (Norton does not have a vote in Congress, though did appear on “The Colbert Show” in 2006 to argue in favor of D.C. statehood.)
But to see the issue get the classic Oliver treatment, packaged into a shareable clip with popular appeal, was a small victory for statehood advocates.
Oliver pointed to former Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) blocking D.C. from spending its own tax money on its highly effective needle exchange program despite Barr’s home state of Georgia having its own needle exchange program. The HBO host also talked about how President Barack Obama used D.C. abortion rights as a bargaining chip in tense budget negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in 2011. And he said that Congress recently almost took away D.C.’s legal weed.