Carper’s Opening Remarks: Hearing on D.C. Statehood Bill

Hearing on Carper’s bill, S. 51, which would grant statehood to Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) delivered opening remarks at the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) hearing to examine D.C. statehood. Carper’s legislation to grant statehood to Washington, D.C., S. 51 – the Washington, D.C. Admission Act – now boasts a record 45 cosponsors, and Carper has introduced this measure every Congress since 2013.

Below is the opening statement of Senator Carper, as prepared for delivery:

“Chairman Peters, Ranking Member Portman, thank you for holding today’s hearing on an issue I care deeply about, as do many other Americans. With today’s hearing, we are one step closer to ending this longstanding policy of ‘taxation without representation.’

“I’d like to begin my comments today by quoting the floor remarks on this subject made by an unlikely member of Congress in 2007: ‘The fact that more than half a million Americans live in the District of Columbia and are denied a single voting representative in Congress is clearly a historic wrong, and justice demands that it be addressed…I believe that kindness demands that we do the right thing for all Americans, regardless of race or political creed.’

“Those are not my words, or the words of Congresswoman Holmes Norton, or Speaker Pelosi. They are the words of then-Congressman Michael Pence, representing the Sixth Congressional District of Indiana. He is far from the only Republican who has stood up for this cause. Because this is not a partisan issue – it is a matter of basic fairness and equality. It always has been, and it remains so to this day.

“With that said, let me now take a moment to welcome our speakers and witnesses. I am pleased that my friend and champion for D.C. statehood, Congresswoman Holmes Norton, is here today. Her steadfast commitment has made two historic votes possible in the House of Representatives, including one just this past April. Welcome also to Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has been leading this fight from City Hall for years.

“I am especially pleased that a longtime friend and former colleague to many of us in the Senate – Joe Lieberman – is here with us today, as well. Joe asked me to take on this issue when he left the Senate in 2013, and I am grateful to him for coming before the committee he once chaired to remind us why this is not a partisan issue. And last but not least, I want to thank the District’s residents, its two shadow Senators, and all of the advocates who fight for statehood day in and day out. 

“Mr. Chairman, our nation’s capital is home to more than just monuments and museums. It is home to American families who go to work, start businesses, pay their taxes and contribute to America’s economic prowess. It is home to citizens who pay higher per-capita federal income taxes than citizens of any other state. It is home to roughly fifteen thousand Americans who, at this moment, are active duty or reserve servicemembers across our Armed Forces. But none of them has a say in the wars being fought.

“As every Congress passes, we are failing these fellow Americans and coming well short of our founders’ rallying cry of ‘no taxation without representation.’ It is incumbent upon all of us who care deeply for our democracy to take up the cause of our fellow citizens in the District of Columbia and use our voices to call out this historic injustice.

“As some raise constitutional concerns about D.C. statehood, let me briefly remind them that D.C. is following the same legislative path to statehood that 37 other states have taken, as laid out in the Constitution. Nothing in the Constitution prevents us from fully implementing this legislation.

“Mr. Chairman, I believe the stars are beginning to align with respect to this issue. Since I last convened a statehood hearing as Chairman in 2014, my bill has now drawn a record number of 45 co-sponsors. Statehood legislation has recently passed the House of Representatives for a second time.  And for the first time, this movement has the formal support of a President of the United States. We have come a long way. But our work does not stop until we end this longstanding policy of ‘taxation without representation.’

“Mr. Chairman, thank you again for holding this hearing and thank you for allowing me to make these brief opening remarks today. I look forward to the testimony of the witnesses and the questions of our colleagues.”