Carper Leads Series of Floor Speeches Touting Momentum for D.C. Statehood
Carper joined by Sens. Booker, Kaine, Van Hollen and Cardin
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), senior member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) and the Senate’s longtime top advocate to make D.C. the 51st state, led several lawmakers on the Senate floor this afternoon in speeches highlighting the urgent need to grant statehood to the District of Columbia. Speaking along with Carper were U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) – all cosponsors of Carper’s Washington, D.C. Admission Act (S. 51). And during his morning remarks, Leader Schumer, also a cosponsor of S.51, thanked Senator Carper and his colleagues for shining a light on the issue of D.C. statehood.
With Memorial Day less than a week away, Carper, himself a 23-year veteran of the Navy and Naval Reserves, focused his remarks on the more than 5,000 D.C. residents who have died since World War I in the performance of duties as members of the Armed Forces.
On May 13, Sen. Carper announced that S. 51 now has 45 cosponsors, a record amount of Senate support for a bill granting statehood to D.C. The House passed their D.C. statehood counterpart last month, for the second time in history.
“Our nation’s capital is home to more than just monuments and museums, Mr. President. … Just like all 50 states represented in this body, the District of Columbia is home to veterans and servicemembers who risked their lives for our country. But year after year they come home to find that they are still denied the ability have a real say in our nation’s future,” Carper said. “The citizens of the District of Columbia pay the most in per-capita federal income taxes in the US. – but have no say in how these dollars are spent. None. This second-class status must come to an end, and we in Congress are the ones who can do something about it.”
Senator Carper’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below, and you can watch these senators’ remarks in a video here.
“Mr. President, I rise today with several of our colleagues to discuss the need to end the policy of taxation without representation, which hundreds of thousands of Americans in the District of Columbia have endured for over 200 years. This policy was wrong in 1776 when 13 colonies took on the mightiest nation on earth to end it. It is wrong today, and we seek to end it through the enactment of S. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act.
“In just six days, our country will observe Memorial Day, a holiday often celebrated to mark the start of summer. But on Memorial Day this year, many of us will pause to remember and the generations of Americans in our Armed Forces who have laid down their lives for our country. This day means something special to my own family, as my own maternal grandmother was a Gold Star Mother.
“With the death of John McCain, I am the last Vietnam War Veteran serving in the Senate. The names of some 58,000 men and women with whom John and I served are engraved on a black granite wall near the Lincoln Memorial, just a few miles from here. Mr. President, the heroes named on that wall include brave men and women from Washington, D.C., as well. Since World War I, over 5,000 Americans from the District of Columbia have lost their lives in service to the United States. And today, roughly 15,000 D.C. residents are active duty or reserve servicemembers. That’s 15,000 Americans serving dutifully in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard.
“Our nation’s capital is home to more than just monuments and museums. It is home to Americans who work, start businesses, and contribute to America’s economy. And just like all 50 states represented in this body, the District of Columbia is home to veterans and servicemembers who risk their lives for our country. But year after year, they come home to find that they are still denied the ability to have a real say in our nation’s future.
“These heroes are among nearly 700,000 Americans who call the District home – and for generations have lived without voting representation in Congress. That’s why I view Washington, D.C. statehood not as a Republican or Democratic issue, but as an American issue. As an issue of fairness and equality.
“Earlier this year, the senior Senator from Utah sought to overturn a law passed by the D.C. City Council, right here on the Senate floor. As U.S. Senators, neither of us should have such an opportunity to intervene in a local matter like that. But in the Senate, we have power over the budget of D.C. – a city that has a Double-A credit rating. We also have confirmation power over the District’s judges, an arrangement that has needlessly led to extensive judicial vacancies and delayed justice for years. That’s wrong. I reminded my colleagues that day that no one in this room was elected by the people of the District of Columbia. And no one here was able to stand up and represent their interests. This should be unacceptable in a 21st Century democracy.
“However, I believe that the tide is starting to turn. I believe we can finally make D.C. statehood a reality during the 117th Congress. We have a fearless champion in the House, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. With her leadership, along that of with Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer, the House passed their D.C. statehood bill last month for the second time ever. We also have, for the first time, a President who formally supports ending this modern day policy of taxation without representation. And in the Senate, we have a record 45 cosponsors on our bill to make the District of Columbia a state – a number that represents members from rural and urban areas alike. This number has grown steadily since my friend Joe Lieberman, a fiercely independent Senator from Connecticut, led this charge in the Senate before passing me the baton in 2013.
“I know that some of my colleagues have said that D.C. statehood is unconstitutional. To be clear, D.C. is taking the same steps towards statehood that 37 states have taken since 1791 – a process clearly laid out in our Constitution. This case was made clearly in a letter to Congress this week from nearly 40 leading Constitutional scholars, who wrote that Congress is well within its rights to grant statehood.
“On a different holiday later this summer, Mr. President, we’ll be celebrating July 4th to remember those who fought for our independence. I’ll remind my colleagues again that the Founding Fathers, the same men who wrote our Constitution, had a rallying cry during the Revolutionary War: “No taxation without representation.”
“Yet that is exactly what is happening to the citizens in the District Columbia today. The reality is that these Americans pay the most in per-capita federal income taxes in the US. – but have no say in how these dollars are spent. None. This second-class status must come to an end, and we in Congress are the ones who can do something about it.
“Winston Churchill once said, quote, “You can always count on America to do the right thing in the end, after they have tried everything else,” end quote. It is never too late to do the right thing. And the right thing to do now is to ensure that nearly 700,000 Americans living in the District of Columbia get a voice – and vote – in our democracy. The right thing to do, Mr. President, is to end this policy of “taxation without representation.” Thank you, Mr. President, and with that, I yield the floor.”