Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) suggested Thursday that the ongoing debate over D.C.’s statehood is intricately rooted in the “history of slavery.”
The New York lawmaker made the remarks during the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s hearing on the D.C. statehood bill H.R. 51, which “provides for admission into the United States of the state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, composed of most of the territory of the District of Columbia.”
“The commonwealth shall be admitted to the Union on an equal footing with the other states,” the bill states.
Ocasio-Cortez lamented the “disenfranchisement” of D.C. residents and connected the statehood issue to the “history of slavery.”
Ocasio-Cortez said during the hearing, according to USA Today:
Where the disenfranchisement of Puerto Ricans was rooted in the colonialist and imperialistic history that we’ve had in policies of the United States, the issue of D.C. statehood is rooted in a different evil in our history, which is the history of slavery in the United States,
It is a profound injustice and a thick irony of our history that the people who fled here to the District of Columbia to free slavery because of the enlightenment of this community are now disenfranchised.
She reiterated her remarks in a tweet posted Thursday afternoon.
“DC was the 1st territory in the United States to free the enslaved. It’s where Black Americans fled the tyranny of slavery & towards greater freedom, to DC,” she wrote, claiming that “2nd class citizenship reigns” in the nation’s capital.
“It’s time to recognize DC statehood,” she declared:
DC was the 1st territory in the United States to free the enslaved.
It’s where Black Americans fled the tyranny of slavery & towards greater freedom, to DC. Yet today it’s where 2nd class citizenship reigns, and the right to vote is denied.
It’s time to recognize DC statehood. https://t.co/AkfaRHw38C
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) September 19, 2019
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also called for D.C. statehood in a tweet Thursday, writing, “There is no excuse for allowing 700,000 American citizens to go without representation in Congress simply because they live in Washington, DC. It’s time to finally grant #DCStatehood”:
There is no excuse for allowing 700,000 American citizens to go without representation in Congress simply because they live in Washington, DC. It’s time to finally grant #DCStatehood https://t.co/5RbMUm8JoH
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) September 19, 2019
However, ranking member Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) rejected his Democrat colleagues’ statehood push.
“We cannot ignore the elephant in the room, ladies and gentlemen. The District government currently faces serious allegations of misconduct,” Jordan said.
“Sadly, the allegations against Mr. [Jack] Evans are just the latest in a series of local D.C. political scandals,” he said, before adding, “D.C. is simply not yet self-sustainable.”
“This is not what the Founding Fathers intended,” he continued. “They understood and they carefully crafted the Constitution so that the seat of the federal government would purposely and specifically not be within a state.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) dismissed House Democrat efforts to push D.C. statehood during an interview with Fox News’s Laura Ingraham in June:
They plan to make the District of Columbia a state — that would give them two new Democratic senators — Puerto Rico a state, that would give them two more new Democratic senators, and as a former Supreme Court clerk yourself, you’ve surely noticed that they plan to expand the Supreme Court.
“This is full-bore socialism on the march in the House,” he added, promising that “none of that stuff is going anywhere” as long as he remains Senate Majority Leader.
A Gallup poll released in July indicated that the vast majority of Americans – 64 percent – do not support formally adding Washington D.C. to the union as the 51st state.