WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Senate committee will consider statehood for the District of Columbia on Monday, the first hearing on the matter by Congress in two decades, but there is practically no chance for the U.S. capital to become the 51st state.
The bill before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee would give Washington and its roughly 650,000 residents a vote in Congress by carving a state, New Columbia, out of the current District of Columbia.
A rump District would remain and contain such federal properties as the White House, Capitol and military bases.
The statehood bill’s sponsor, Senator Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat and the committee chairman, said it went against U.S. values for residents of the 68-square-mile (177-square-km) District of Columbia to pay taxes but be denied representation in Congress.
“My goal for this hearing is to educate a new generation of people about this injustice and restart the conversation about finding a solution,” he said in remarks prepared for the hearing.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the District of Columbia is under congressional oversight. The city’s population is greater than those in Vermont and Wyoming and pays more than $20 billion a year in federal taxes without a voting representative in Congress.
Reflecting local resentment over its political status, the official slogan on District of Columbia car license plates is “Taxation Without Representation.”
Carper’s measure is given no chance of passage by Congress even though statehood supporters include President Barack Obama.
The District is overwhelmingly Democratic and statehood would hand the party two seats in the Senate and one in the House of Representatives, something that Republicans steadfastly oppose.
The last time Congress dealt with Washington statehood was in November 1993, when the House rejected the idea in a 277-153 vote.
Among the witnesses are Washington Mayor Vincent Gray; Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s non-voting congressional representative; and economist Alice Rivlin, a former head of the White House Office of the Management and Budget.
Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Bill Trott