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.
Read the full bill here.
Lieberman's full media release is below:
SENATORS MOVE FORWARD WITH D.C. STATEHOOD BILL
INTRODUCE THE NEW COLUMBIA ADMISSIONS ACT
WASHINGTON— Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., introduced legislation Wednesday granting Washington D.C. full statehood, including full voter representation in Congress for its residents.
The New Columbia Admissions Act, S. 3696, is the first D.C. statehood bill to be introduced in the Senate since 1993. It would create a 51st state called New Columbia. In January 2011, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC, introduced companion legislation in the House, H.R. 265.
“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,” said Lieberman. “The United States is the only democracy in the world that denies voting representation to the people who live in its capital city. 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.”
“It might surprise some students of American history to know that it wasn’t until the 1964 election that residents of the District of Columbia were finally able to cast a ballot for President and Vice President of the United States,” said Durbin. “Unfortunately, the disenfranchisement of these citizens is not yet a relic of history. More than a half century later, Washingtonians are still denied full voting representation in Congress. I first voted in favor of this legislation nearly two decades ago, and I will continue to stand with the people of the District until they are granted the voting rights that they deserve.”
“I am proud to join with Senators Lieberman, Durbin, and Boxer in co-sponsoring this long-overdue legislation,” said Murray. “Residents of the District of Columbia have been denied their right to fully participate in our democracy for far too long, and this legislation would finally give residents a voice.”
If passed by Congress, the act would allow D.C. residents to endorse statehood by a district-wide vote. New Columbia would include residential neighborhoods and business districts where the majority of D.C. residents live and work. It would not incorporate sections of D.C. where most government buildings and the Mall are located. That area would remain under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress as a federal district.