tv DC Mayor Others Testify on Statehood CSPAN July 23, 2021 2:13pm-4:56pm EDT
and professor and former u.s. air force officer. watch american history and book tv every weekend on c-span2. and find a full program schedule on your guide. the house committee investigating the january 6th attack on the u.s. capitol holds its first hearing tuesday. officers from the u.s. capitol police and washington metropolitan police department will tell members what they saw and experienced that day. watch it on tuesday. or listen with the free c-span radio app. the washington, d.c. mayor muriel bowser testified before congress about admitting the district of columbia as the vunlt state. she noted that d.c. residents pay federal income taxes and serve in the military but are not represented in congress
examine legislation introduced by my colleague, senator tom carper, to make the district of columbia our nation's vunlt state. i would also like the on extend a warm welcome to washington, d.c.'s delegate, to the u.s. house of representatives, congresswoman eleanor holmes norton as well as senator and former chairman of this committee, joe lieberman. we appreciate your attendance here today and we want to recognize your incredible leadership this issue over many years. so it is wonderful to have you here before the committee. for decades, you both have, senator lieberman as well, have served as strong voices. and today for the first time in nearly seven years, this committee will continue that discussion and hear from the mayor policy, legal, and civil rights experts on how lawmakers
can finally, finally give d.c. residents the same representation in congress as their fellow americans. this lack of recommendation for residents serves as a beacon of freedom and democracy around the world is a stunning contradiction. so 1790 when the president signed into law the government act, d.c. has served as our nation's capital. d.c.'s more than 700,000 residents, many of whom have fought in our wars, paid federal taxes, and served the american people and public service, have been denied an equal voice in the formation of the very laws and decisions that govern them. and this is unconscionable. it is time to follow the league of the colleague in the house and fast washington, d.c. admission act which will finally
ensure that d.c. residents have a full congressional representation and self-governance that they deserve and that our democracy was built on. our nation's most defining principle is that our government's power is derive directly from the people. it is why we elect leaders to represent us in congress and every american should be entitled to the same representation in our democratic republic, no matter which part of our nation they live in. when the founders first established the perm nancy of government along the potomac river, they could never have imagined it would become a large, vibrant and diverse city that more than 700,000 americans call home. while we may hear a number of questions raised today, i encourage all of my colleagues to stay focused on the core civil rights issue that we have an opportunity to address. i look forward to hearing from our witnesses and having a
productive discussion today. and with that i turn it over. >> thank you. thank you for our witnesses. we've got a distinguished group here today including eleanor holmes norton, my congresswoman when i'm here in d.c. and senator joe lieberman who is back to this committee, having served as its chair and ranking member and really was the heart and soul of this committee when he was here. we'll also hear from mayor bowser today. a good group of academics. i have both practical and constitutional concerns about making washington, d.c. its own state. legally it doesn't have, it is the only place specifically created by the constitution in
article one as the seat of government. meaning it has a special constitutional status, completely different from any current or previous u.s. territory that actually became a state through the article 4 admissions clause. here neither the district laws nor the admission clause provide quong the power to transform the seat of government into a new state. moreover, d.c. has special constitutional status of course, in the 23rd amendment which grants d.c. three electoral votes in elections west cannot just legislate over these. further, when maryland authorized this session of nearly 60 miles of its territory to the federal government for the creation of the district of columbia in 1788, it did so for the purpose that, quote, congress may fix upon and accept this land for the seat of government. end quote. when congress formally second it
by legislative act in 1790, we splamd the land was here by accepted perm negligency. we could create an independent federal district, making d.c. into a separate state violates this solemn compact we made over 200 years ago with maryland as well. and by the way, we would be creating a state that by acreage comprises less than 6% of the next smallest state, rhode island. a better option would be to give a large portion to maryland. retro session is the way to provide d.c. residents with voting representation in both chambers of congress. this issue has come up before. the states declined to ratify the d.c. voting rights amendment in the 1970s which would have granted d.c. representation in both houses of congress and repeeled the 23rd amendment. only 32 states ratified it.
22 states short of the required two thirds for adoption. it would show the american people are still not interested in eliminating their capital district. again, i appreciate the witnesses coming today and i look forward to hearing their testimony. >> thank you. before we turn it over to our distinguished guests and panel, i want to give the lead sponsor of the washington, d.c. act, the lead sponsor in the senate, senator tom carper to address the committee. >> thank you so much. i appreciate this opportunity. let me just welcome back joe lieberman. great to welcome you back to your hole and thank you for your years of leadership and to welcome another yale grad, thank you for joining us today and for your leadership. when joe lienorman left the senate, he handed off a piece of legislation to me. and this piece of legislation is before us today. when summer ends and school
resumes this fall, millions of american school children will begin each day by repeating these words. i pledge a allegiance to the flag of the united states of america. and to the republic for which it stands. one nation under god, with liberty and justice for all. one nation under god, with liberty and justice for all. we are a nation of many faiths, protestant, catholic, jew, muslim, buddhist, hindu and others. each of these six religions share at least one thing in common. each of them. they share this admonition to love our neighbors as ourselves and treat other people the way we want to be treated.
the more than 700,000 are our neighbors. they deserve to be treated as such by the rest us in this country. they pay more on a per capita basis than any other state yet they have no vote in the u.s. house of representatives or the u.s. senate. they serve in the earl, navy, the air force, the marine corps, the national guard. yet they have no vote in the u.s. house of representatives or the united states senate. the leader of every state is authorized to call up the national guard in times of crisis. we learned on january 6th that the elected leader of the district of columbia has no such authority. the district of columbia has earned a aa plus credit rating, higher than most other states. yet the congress has to approve the district's budget.
and some of the finest judges serve on d.c. courts but the congress has to approve each one of them. when the federal budget shuts down because of a budget impasse, it creates turmoil, budget turmoil for the district of columbia. when the congress fails to vote to confirm highly qualified judges for weeks, months, sometimes for years, justice is delayed and sometimes justice is denied. two 45 years ago, 13 colonies took on the mightiest nation on earth, england, because of unjust treatment. they found it galling to pay taxes without representation. taxation without representation led to our declaration of independence and a war to achieve it. the people of the district of columbia have no interest in waging a war for independence. they just want to be treated fairly and justly. we should do that. we can start doing it by enlegislation that has passed
the house of representatives and is the subject of today's hearing. that is the right thing to do. the right thing to do. it meets constitutional muster. it puts the district of columbia on the very same path followed by all 37 states who have entered the union since i believe 1791. to paraphrase mark twain, when in doubt, do what's right. you will amaze your friends and confound your foes. let's do what is right. we start by treating our neighbors here in the conflict of columbia the way we want to be treated. and by the way, i want to give you another quote that may come as a surprise. it did to me and it might to you as well. here's another quote. 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 an historic wrong and justice demands that it be addressed.
i don't agree with our former vice president, mike pence on everything. but we certainly agree on this one. thank you, mr. president. >> mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator carper, and thank you for your leadership this issue over many years. before i introduce our witnesses, i want to give two very important guests an opportunity to provide remarks. our first is congresswoman eleanor holmes norton, the delegate, from the district of columbia. congresswoman holmes norton has without question been the leading voice in this fight for statehood. she has worked tirelessly, i think that is a good word, to sum up your work. tirelessly to provide her constituents with equal representation throughout her 15 terms tenure in the congress. she recently led the passage of the washington, d.c. admission act through the congress earlier
this year. welcome, congresswoman. again, thank you for your tireless leadership on this issue. i speak for the entire committee. we look forward to hearing your remarks. >> microphone? >> is it on now? >> i thank you, mr. chairman. chairman peters, on behalf of the 700,000 district of columbia residents including 30,000 veterans, i thank you for holding and for being an original co-sponsor of holding this hearing, and for being an original co-sponsor of the district of columbia's statehood bill. this hearing is of historic
significance because it is only the second senate hearing on our d.c. statehood bill in the nation's history. in the last year, the house of representatives has twice passed our d.c. statehood bill. in 1993, when i first came to house of representatives, i got the first ever house vote on d.c. statehood, but the bill failed because the house had a very different composition then. prior to last year, neither chamber of congress had ever passed the d.c. statehood bill in the nation's history. senator carper, i particularly thank you for sponsoring our
d.c. statehood bill, and for being a champion for d.c. in the senate where we have no representation. following in the footsteps of senator joe lieberman, under your leadership, the d.c. statehood bill has 45 senate co-sponsors, which is the greatest number of senate co-sponsors of the bill in the nation's history. president biden strongly supports d.c. statehood, our d.c. statehood bill, and is the first president to put the full weight of the presidency behind the bill in the nation's history. 54%. that is a growing number. 54% of the american people.
more than half the american people support d.c. statehood, according to a recent, very detailed poll. this is the greatest support for d.c. statehood in the nation's history. congress has both the moral obligation and the constitutional authority to pass our d.c. statehood bill. the country was founded on the principles of no taxation without representation and consent of the government. but d.c. residents are taxed without representation and cannot consent to the laws under which they as american citizens, must live. the state of washington, d.c. would consist of 66 of the 68 square miles of the present day
federal district. the federal district would be two square miles and congress would retain control over it as required by the constitution. the d.c. statehood bill clearly complies with the constitution, including the admissions clause, the district laws and the 23rd amendment. those who believe the bill is constitutional need only rely to plain text of the constitution. a group of very distinguished law professors and scholars from america's top law schools have sent a definitive analysis of the bill's constitutionality to the house and senate leadership. you already have that so i don't believe i need ask that it be admitted to the record.
all 37 new states were admitted by congress by majority vote. no state was admitted by constitutional amendment. and no state would have to consent to the admission of the state of washington, d.c. the district laws gives congress plenary authority over the federal district and establishes a maximum size of the federal district. 100 square miles. it does not establish a minimum size. or a location of the federal district. congress reduce the size by 30% in 1846. the 23rd amendment allows the federal district to participate in the electoral college. but does not establish a minimum
size or location of the federal district. therefore, the bill complies with the 23rd amendment. nevertheless, the bill would repeal the enabling act for the 23rd amendment and the 23rd amendment itself would be repealed quickly. the constitution does not establish any prerequisites for new states. but congress generally has considered three. population and resources, support for statehood, and commitment to democracy. the state of washington, d.c. would meet all three. d.c.'s population is larger than the population of two states. d.c. pays more federal taxes per cap at a, and i will repeat that
one. the residents i represent, pay more taxes per capita than any state and pay more federal taxes right now than 21 states. d.c.'s federal domestic product is larger than 17 states. in 2016, 86% of d.c. residents voted for statehood. d.c. residents have been petitioning for voting representation in the congress and local autonomy for all of its 220 years of existence, from the moment this became the capital of the united states. congress does have a choice. it can continue to exclude d.c. residents from the democratic process, forcing them to watch from the sidelines, as congress
votes on federal and d.c. laws and to treat them in the words of frederick douglass as aliens, not citizens, but subjects. or it can live up to our nation's founding principles and pass our d.c. statehood bill. again, chairman peters, and senator carper, thank you for your leadership on this bill. i look forward to continuing to work with you and your colleagues to enact this d.c. statehood bill this congress. thank you again. >> congresswoman holmes norton, thank you for your statement and for your leadership on this issue. our second guest is senator joe lieberman who represented connecticut in the senate for 24 years. senator lieberman served as both
the chairman and the ranking member of this very committee. in 2012, he helped author the new columbia admissions act, the first d.c. statehood bill to be introduced in the senate in nearly 20 years. senator lieberman, you may proceed with your statement. >> thanks very much, chairman peters, ranking member portman and members of the committee for convening this hearing today. and for giving me the honor of testifying. delegate norton, mayor bowser and other distinguished witnesses, a pleasure to be with you here. as senator karmer alluded to, just a few years ago, delegate norton and i were at law school together. and we haven't aged at all since then. i will point out that the mascot, we were lucky to go to yale the mascot at yale is a
bulldog. and i don't think anyone would argue with me that i said delegate norton on this particular issue and many others, has had the tenacity of a bulldog. occasionally the bark and if necessary, the bite. so it is always good to be on her side. a special thank you, talking about tenacity to senator carper, my dear friend, for introducing and advocating this legislation, which really, right or wrong, it has been done too long to the residents of the district of columbia. i'm honored really personally to have the opportunity to return to this committee in this room where i spent so many of the best, most productive days of my 24 years in the u.s. senate, in large part because i was
privileged to work in bipartisan partnership with the leading republicans on the committee during that time, first fred thompson of tennessee, and then for more than a decade, susan collins of maine. i hope that the spirit of bipartisanship, which has been part of this committee's history and has been exemplified i think already this year by chairman peters and ranking member portman, will guide your committee's consideration of the deprivation of voting representation in congress for citizens of our capital city, as you know, as far as anyone can tell, the only citizens of any capital of any country in the world who are disenfranchised in this way. i first introduced legislation
on this subject in 2002 when some of the current committee staff members were probably in elementary school. it was called a no taxation without representation act, and it was, i'm pleased to say, reported favorably from the committee but was not acted on by the senate. in 2009, a group of us introduced the d.c. house voting rights act, which was favorably reported by this committee, and in fact passed by the senate in a vote of 61-37. unfortunately, however, the senate added an amendment that repealed d.c.'s gun control laws. and therefore, the house never acted on the legislation. in 2012, which was my last year in the senate, a group of us introduced the d.c. statehood legislation, which is very much like senator carper's initiative
that is before you today. but senator carper has done a much better job than i did. he's got the largest ever number of co-sponsors for this legislation. it is really a tribute to the cause and to his tenacity and advocacy. when senator carper asked me if i would get involved in supporting the current proposal, i immediately said yes. i was very grateful to tom for the opportunity to reengage in this constitutional cause that hazmatered to me for a long time. and it mattered to me because of two great constitutional principles that are at the heart of the cause of d.c. statehood, and that are violated every day in the current treatment of residents of the district of
columbia. both of these principles were central to the american revolution against the british crown. the first is that governments should govern only with the consent of the governed. not by the whim of the crown or any other leader, particularly not a dictator. and that in a great democracy, a republic like ours, that consent is given by the votes of the citizenry. the second as has been mentioned, great founding principle, is that citizens should not and cannot be taxed without representation in the legislative body that taxes them. and here i quote justice hugo black who wrote in 1964, a supreme court decision, no right is more precious in a free
country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which we must live. end quote. today's residents of the district of columbia, as has been that, have every right to sound the battle cry of our revolution. no taxation without representation. greater per capita income tax paid from residents of the district and more in total than the residents and citizens of 21 existing states. so why would anyone not want to eliminate these grossly outdated unamerican inequities? today you will hear some arguments why, from the witnesses who will testify against senator carper's legislation. i must say, almostfully, that i've heard the arguments before many times over the years.
and as judges say, i've reached a decision. they are illegal disputations and ultimately, excuses for something that is inexcusable. the arguments against this legislation don't come near to overcoming the great principled constitutional arguments for it. so what is the problem? well, the media suggested, it is not constitutional or philosophical but political and partisan. that republicans today fear that granting equal voting representation in congress to d.c. residents will inevitably lead to two more democratic senators and one more democratic member of the house. i hope that is not the problem, because it is self-evidently
unacceptable in america to condition the enjoyment of constitutional rights on political party membership. any more than congress would condition access to constitutional rights on citizens' race or gender or religion or sexual orientation. besides, it is just not sensible to base one's vote this legislation which would correct an injustice forever, on a short-range political prediction which, based on history, may well turn out to be baseless or at least temporary. who among us can really predict how the citizens of the state of washington, d.c. will vote in elections or their representatives in congress in
50 years or 20 years, or even five years? for example, who would have predicted five years ago that the state of georgia would elect two democratic senators to this congress? who could have predicted 30, 40, 50 years ago, that there would be almost no republicans from new england, my part of the country, in the senate today, and almost no democrats from the house? which is obviously why we were so surprised by the election of the two democrats from georgia. a look at american history shows that partisan anxieties have been common when states have been considered for admission to our union since the original 13. but 37 times these anxieties were overcome to enable us to become the united states of america we are today.
and here's an example, which i think proves the difficulty of deciding this issue based on political predictions. in 1959, alaska and hawaii were both seeking admission to our union. there was a lot of concern about how the citizens of those states would vote. they were essentially both admitted together. there was a separation of a few months. because they were expected to balance each other politically. alaska was expected to vote democratic and hawaii was expected to vote republican. that was the bipartisan consensus prophecy in 1959. i can tell you, in my 24 years,
in the senate and still today, the opposite is the case. hawaii elects democrats and alaska has elected republicans. so much for deciding great constitutional issues such as this one because of passing political prognostications. it is not only a weak basis for judgment. it is unacceptable in our system of law and equity. many chairman, many times in my 24 years on this committee, our members were able to find bipartisan solutions to difficult problems and then to convince the senate to agree with those solutions, and together we got some great and good things done with our country. i'll proud to say. i hope you members of the committee in this issue will
similarly rise to the challenge of this moment and this problem and work together to get something good and great done for our country, our constitution, and for the people of our capital city. thank you very, very much. >> well, thank you, senator lieberman and congresswoman holmes norton for your perspective on this issue. i would now like the invite our witnesses to their chairs and to get settled. and as we are making those changes, as the witnesses are coming to their seats, i would also like the welcome our esteemed guest to stay for the remainder of the hearing, if their schedules allow. as we set up to move into the next phase of this hearing, i hope my colleagues will pause and reflect on the remarks of representative norton and senator lieberman. with their depth of knowledge and experience working to provide d.c. residents with an
equal voice in the democratic process, i think they've set the tone for today's very historic hearing. today's hearing is not about political posturing and it shouldn't be predicated on predetermined views. it is simply about providing d.c. residents full and equal democratic rights. president eisenhower i think said it best in his 1954 state of the union address. and i quote. president dwight eisenhower when he said, quote, in the district of columbia, the time is long overdue for granting national suffrage to its citizens is that the prip of local self-government to the nation's capital. that was dwight eisenhower. you no 67 years later, those words still ring true. by folks throughout our nation, my constituents and i know the constituents of everyone in the committee, deserve a complete voice in government. it is long past time for the senate to pass this act.
and now that the witnesses have been settled, i would like each of the witnesses to know that is the practice of this committee, to swear in witnesses. if you will rise and if you'll r right hand. we have witnesses on video. if you'll do the same, i would appreciate it. do you swear that the testimony you will give before this committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god? >> i do. >> you may be seated. our first witness is mayor muriel bouzer, the 8th mayor of the district of columbia. in her role she serves as the trikt of columbia's chief executive and functions as its governor, county executive and mayor. you have a lot on your plate, mayor. and it's certainly wonderful to see you here before the committee today. you may proceed with your opening statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
chairman peters, ranking member portman and members of this esteemed committee, thank you for convening this hearing on the admission act, which provides the 700,000 residents of washington, d.c. full democracy. i am the mayor of washington, d.c., and i'm honored to come before this committee with a simple request. senators, we ask you to write the wrong that occurred some 220 years ago when the residents of the district of columbia were stripped of their full congressional representation and we ask you to do it now. the constitution left the issue of democracy for residents of the district of columbia to the congress. the house of representatives has passed the washington, d.c. admission act twice and the white house has indicated its
support for the bill through a statement of administration policy. our democracy is truly in the hands of this senate. it is the time for the u.s. senate to support the d.c. petition for statehood. my testimony today echoes the many arguments that i made before the house committee on oversight and reform in march. and in september of 2019. and sol of the same arguments made by my predecessor in this very room in 2014. then as now, the district's call for full democracy has been drown out by arguments that ignore the fact that the second class status of d.c. residents is clearly an anomaly of the united states constitution. over the decades, arguments have ranged from assertions that are quite frankly preposterous to
inaccurate legal claims. just to cite a couple, in 2019 we were asked what would happen to the parking spaces for congressional staff if the district were to become a state. we were at a loss to see how our full democracy should be equated to just a few parking spaces. this march i was confronted with concerns that the district could not be a state because it was believed that we didn't have a car dealership. even though we do. statements like these not only discount civil rights of d.c. residents, they also demonstrate a true lack of understanding of the rapidly growing and thriving businesses, neighborhoods and culture that surround the small federal presence. it is for those neighborhoods and those people, the fabds of michigan park where i was born and raised, congress park innen
mount pleasant, columbia heights andhill crest among them that make up 99% of the district. and the people who live in them who have come to d.c. for school, government, service or other work, i appear today to represent them. there is no legal or constitutional barrier to d.c. statehood. the prevail constitutional issue is the civil rights violation of 700,000 d.c. residents who fulfill all obligations of united states citizenship, but are denied any representation in this body. we say and we rely on the opinions of 39 legal scholars who have submitted testimony to you, unequivocally that the bill before you, s 51, the admission act, is constitutional. dozens of america's most recognized constitutional
experts have testified before congress and penned letters to that effect. scholars and experts have opined that it is fully within congress's power under the constitution to make d.c. a state through the passage of s-51. the constitutions admissions clause grants congress authority to admit states into the union including washington, d.c. following the 13 colonies, all 37 states were admitted by congress through this constitutional authority. states were added solely -- were not added solely because of pa particular industry or size of the land mass. states were added to include the people. the constitution's district clause poses no barrier to admitting d.c. as a state either. the district clause sets a maximum size of 10 square miles
for the federal district, not a minimum size. s 51 retains a a federal district as required by the constitution. it encompasses the unpopulated areas that make up the federal presence including all of the house and senate office buildings, the capitol itself, the supreme court building, the white house, the monuments, the museums on the national mall and all of the federal buildings and land. the people of america when they come to the nation's capitol, they will still find all of the great monuments and museums that make up their experience. and the free museums of the smithsonian constitution. the 23rd amendment to the constitution, which granted d.c. residents a vote for president in 1961 does not pose a constitutional barrier to statehood either. the bill addresses it head on by repealing statutory language that enables the appointment of
electors and includes expedited procedures for consideration of the reare peel peel of the unnecessary constitutional amendment. thus ensuring quick and certain rttlification by the states to ensure no ambiguity about the electoral votes. s-51 outlines a clear path forward on how to address the 23rd post d.c. admission. it is particularly contradictory that the amendment, which was passed to expand democracy to tax paying d.c. residents, is now being held up a as the main barrier to further expanding constitutional rights in the district. this flies in the face of the amendmentsen intent. the session to maryland is also not required nor is it addressed in the constitution. maryland has no claim to the land it's seated to the federal government when the district was
founded. certainly, no one in this body would suggest that maine should retrocede to massachusetts or that west virginia should return to virginia. of course, not. to be clear, d.c.'s current status is due to generations of inactivity by lawmakers including the founding fathers themselves, failing to address the contradiction that d.c. residents of the u.s. capitol are treated as seconds class citizens. with no constitutional underpinning, the disenfranchise of washingtonians is a clairing civil rights issue of our time. in fact, we are the only capitol, as has been stated, in the world's democracies without voting rights in national legislature. in two weeks, the country will celebrate our independence day and the establishment of of the united states as a sovereign nation free from taxation
without representation. yet the 700,000 predominantly black and brown residents of washington, d.c. have continued to pay taxes without representation for over 200 years. fpz as we celebrate our nationhood, i appeal to this senate to end the ongoing systemic injustice faced by a growing population in d.c. and vote for statehood in the 117th congress. we cannot emphasize enough the civil rights and full democracy of d.c. residents is in your hands. we are 700,000 people, some born here, others from all 50 states and many nations in the world. we are washingtonians and fight for our country and we are 30,000 veterans of our armed forces. we are washingtonians. we have served on the front line as essential workers during this pandemic.
doctors, lawyers, firefighters, teachers, yet we have no say in this senate. we are washingtonians who heroically defended our nation's capital on the january 6th insurrection by answering the call to help our partners despite not having any representation in the senate. we are washingtonians. we don't have any say when this senate considers presidential nominations, supreme court justices and large investments, like the c.a.r.e.s. act or the american jobs plan. i ask you to treat d.c. residents the same as all tax paying americans. your inaction could doom yet another generation of washingtonians to being locked out of their constitutional power and human rights. will this body perpetuate this civil rights and voting rights wrong? by what authority would this
body continue to have washingtonians pay federal income taxes without a voice? today i'm asking that the united states senate usher in a new age of fairness and equality for d.c. residents. one thing i know about d.c. residents is that they have been fighting for this for 220 years. we will not quit until we achieve full democracy and our two senators are seated here with you. d.c. residents are not standing alone. over the years we have garnered the support of americans of all stripes and believes. the bipartisan united states conference of mayors, for example, representing millions of americans in big cities and small towns. the non-partisan league of women voters who for 100 years have fought to defend our democracy. the naacp, the human rights campaign and the leadership conference and civil and human rights who recognize d.c.
statehood for the civil and human rights contradiction that it is. to your former colleague and independent senator joe lieberman whose focus on justice and fairness makes plain why partisan considerations have absolutely nothing to do with the quest of d.c. citizens for full democracy and absolutely no place in assuring that s-51 moves forward in the 117th congress. finally, chairman, together with leaders across america we know that we will keep pushing until d.c.'s tragic disenfranchisement is rectified. you have the power to make two things happen that i see so clearly in my mind's eye and feel so deeply in my heart and soul. with your courageous leadership and clear-eyed focus on fairness
in perfecting our union, today this session this congress, you will vote to admit d.c. into our great american union. and, secondly, and prayerfully, i will be the last d.c. mayor who needs to sit here demanding on behalf of our 700,000 residents what is our birth right and what is owed to us as taxpayers and that's full citizenship and democracy. thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you, senators. we're happy to take your questions. >> thank you, mayor, for your opening statement. our next witness is mark morial, president and ceo of the national urban league, the nation's largest historic civil rights and urban advocacy organization. mr. morrill previously served as mayor of new orleans, was the president of u.s. conference of mayors. welcome. you may proceed with your opening comments. >> chairman peters, ranking
member portman and members of the committee, i want to thank you for the opportunity to testify on the washington, d.c., admissions act. as chairman peters indicated, i am mark moriale. president and ceo of the national urban league. in addition to serving as mayor of new orleans and louisiana state legislature, i'm also a former senate staffer having served the late russell b. long of louisiana in the 1980s. i also am proud to say that congresswoman norton taught me both civil rights and constitutional law when i was a student at georgetown university law center and a resident of the district of columbia in 1980 to 1983. and i thank her and mayor bowser and senator lieberman for their testimony and their leadership on this important issue.
we, the national urban league, were founded in 1910. we've served the district of columbia through both the greater national urban league since 1938 and the washington, d.c., bureau of the national urban league since 1962. on behalf of all of our members and supporters across the nation, i urge the senate to pass this legislation to remedy the disenfranchisement of nearly 700,000 americans as a voting rights activist, civil rights lawyer and elected official. i have had a long standing passion in the d.c. statehood movement. while in law school in washington, i grew to know and love this community and made the city my second home. in 2006 to 2010 i served on the d.c. statehood commission where
we pushed for d.c. statehood and statutory representation. despite the progress we've made in the fight against disenfranchisement over the 200 plus years, d.c. residents have been pushed to the sidelines as spectators and continue to be deprived of full representation. they are unable to bring grievances to influential federal officials, reap the benefits available to other congressional constituents or have a say in the important issues of war and peace that confront this nation. as a civil and human rights services organization the national urban league is in a unique position to see how this lack of representation acutely impacts d.c. residents during the covid-19 pandemic. d.c. residents were in dire relief afforded under the
c.a.r.e.s. act, however, they did not have congressional representation that could offer amendments to or vote on the final bill and d.c. was originally denied some $755 million in critical funding that it needed to provide direct relief to its residents. last summer d.c. residents took to the streets to exercise their first amendment rights to peacefully protest racial injustice and police brutality. in response, the then administration gave orders to the national guard and federal law enforcement to carry out a disproportionate and inappropriate response in the interest of a photo op. the same administration refused
to call in the national guard in response to a violent attack on the u.s. capitol on january 6th until much of the damage had already been done. in both cases, d.c. officials were absolutely powerless to respond to critical events. it's a clinical safety mechanisms of state hood provides. they're not able to hold elected representatives accountable for these harms. there was no d.c. elected congressional representative to vote to establish an independent january 6th commission to investigate the attack on the u.s. capitol or on the george floyd justice in policing act which would put in place critical policing reforms. we are at a unique juncture in american history where we can create laws that reflect our democratic values and principles and ensure that the fundamental right to vote, which is the foundation of all rights, can be exercised by all-american citizens. we cannot let this moment pass.
it is time to enact the washington, d.c., admissions act. i want to thank senator carper for calling attention to this issue by introducing the washington d.c. admission act in the senate. and i applaud all of the testimony herein. this is an injustice. this is a denial of voting rights. this is something that should be remedied now so i urge this committee to stand up for american values and democratic principles and pass the d.c. statehood bill. thank you so much. >> thank you, mr. moriale for your opening statement. our next witness is richard primus.
he's from the university of michigan law school. go blue. professor is an expert in congressional law. he is the recipient of the first ever guggenheim fellowship and constitutional studies for his work on the relationship between history and constitutional interpretation. he also clerked for the late justice ruth bader ginsberg on the supreme court. professor, welcome. you may proceed with your opening comment. >> chairman peters, ranking member portman, members of the committee, my name is richard primus. i am the collegiate professor at the university of michigan law school. i'm honored by your request that i participate in today's proceedings. i want to recognize chairman peters as my own senator and ranking member portman as a graduate of the law school which i teach. savannah greiss, rob luthman and tyler washington. the constitutionality of s-51 is
straightforward. this empowers congress to admit new states subject only to the limitation that congress cannot unilaterally reconfigure existing states. s-51 would not reconfigure any existing state. it would take american territory that is not a state and make it one. that's exactly what the admission clause empowers congress to do. some say that this admission would require a constitutional amendment but the constitution doesn't say that. the constitution gives the power to admit new states to congress, not jointly to congress in the state legislatures by way of constitutional amendment. still, some americans have the intuition that something would be constitutionally amiss without making what we know washington, d.c., a state. that intuition which people hold on a good-faithed basis is based on the knowledge that the
founding fathers didn't intend washington, d.c., to be a state. it's true, the founding generation didn't intend washington, d.c., to be a state. the founding generation also didn't intend to create a situation in which 700,000 americans would have no voting representation in congress. for the founders no principle was more essential to the constitution and represented in the government. in their time there was no conflict between that principle and a non-state status of washington, d.c., because virtually nobody lived in washington, d.c. today it is a conflict. the number of registered voters in d.c. today is larger than the entire number of voters who participated in all of the elections for all of the conventions that ratified the constitution in all 13 original
states together. any constitutional vision that takes representative vision seriously, that's a serious problem. given the importance of the boundaries attached to representative government, it would be strange to conclude that their vision requires us to maintain a situation in which so many american citizens lack representation. and fortunately it doesn't. the constitution they adopted gives congress a tool for solving the problem. that tool gives the power to admit new states and give representation to americans who currently lack it. s-51 is not at odds with the founders vision. on the contrary. s.-51 helps fulfill what is most important in that vision. before i close, i should say a word about the ideas expressed in the written testimony of two witnesses with whom i have the honor to share this meeting. professor derek muller and dr. roger pilar. professor muller cautions that
s-51 can cause confusion at the next presidential election given the 23rd amendment. i agree with professor muller, that the best solution is to repeal the 23rd amendment and that the second best solution is for congress to ensure by statute that the seat of government doesn't appoint through electors. to read s-51 to accomplish the latter solution by removing any electors that might be appointed to the seat of government in the electoral count. in my written testimony, i could provide solutions for what congress could do. the existing solution is adequate. professor muller reads the statutes differently, but the key point is this, professor muller and i agree. even if his reading were correct, s-51 would be constitutional and congress could solve any confusions. he and i can agree that nothing about the 23rd amendment makes s-51 unconstitutional. given my limited time i will here address just one of dr.
pilon's comments. the contention that s-51 would require the concept of the maryland legislature. the idea is maryland gave washington, d.c., the seat of government. in my own view, this is the strongest of dr. pilon's remarks. there's a difference between giving a gift for a reason and giving a gift by condition and i'm happy to discuss the distinction further if it's helpful, but in short if maryland conceded the lands to the united states and specified that the session was valid only so long as the land were used in a certain way, there might be a problem with s-51, but maryland's session specified no such condition. washington, d.c., belongs to the united states. maryland has no greater claim on
it than the rest of america. i thank the committee for its attention and i will be happy to address any questions. >> thank you, mr. primus. our next witness is roger pilon, vice president for legal affairs at the v. kennedy simon at the kato institution. he's a policy scholar at the kato institution and is the chair of the constitutional studies program. welcome, mr. pilon. please proceed with your opening statement. >> is my speaker -- >> it's on. >> oh, okay. thank you. chairman peters, ranking member portman, thank you for inviting me to testify. s-51 arises for the constitution with the justice department and
it's considered many issues since the time of the attorney general penned it. to summarize my written statement here, which is -- i'll simply touch on four issues. congressional authority, relevance consent, tactical problems and most importantly the 23rd amendment. congress certainly has authority to admit new states in the union. it's done so 37 times under article 4 section 3 either with the consent of states or more often from the federal territory required in clear contemplation of the states from the
territory. this isn't a normal admissions case. the district of columbia is unique. there is a clause for the express purpose of the seat of the new government. it's been that way for 50 years. it is a strong presumption by now against this bill's radical change, the framers certainly didn't intend anything like this. second, maryland conceded the land for the express purpose of its becoming the seat of the federal government. it didn't do so for the purpose of creating a new state on its border nor is it likely that it would have done so for that purpose contrary to the bill's proponents article 4 alone requires maryland's consent. third, as a practical matter, this bill strips congress of its authority over the present district. congress will then have authority over this tiny enclave around the national mall and that raises numerous practical problems as james madison
explained, the federal government must not be dependent on any one of the states nor should any state be either dependent or excessively influential on the federal government. this bill fails on each of those counts. finally, and most important, the 23rd amendment granting it three electoral college votes would need to be repealed because there will be residents in this tiny enclave including the first family and they'll have outsized influence on presidential elections yet their votes can't be taken away by mere statute, it's going to take an amendment. proponents seem to understand this. the bill also provides for repealing the statute that neighbors residents to vote. that would extinguish the resident's right to vote, of course, so there's a problem here. not even the 39 scholars who wrote to congress to support this bill are able to agree about how to resolve it. one camp reads the 23rd amendment as self-enforcing and therefore as mandating the employment of electors. the other reads it as requiring enabling legislation so without that there's no way for the residents to vote and that camp seems perfectly happy with that result. but even if the self-enforcement camp prevailed and the district
had to appoint electors in such manner as the congress may direct as the amendment reads, both camps claim that congress could replace the current law. that law orders electors to vote in accordance with the district's popular vote. the scholars believe congress could order electors to vote for the ticket that got the most electoral college votes nationwide, for example, or for the ticket that won the national popular vote. in other words, the scholars read manner as referring not simply to procedures needed to execute voting but to legislation allowing congress to direct electors how to vote. the current statute does that, of course, but the way it does
that is currently specific with the 23rd amendment, namely to allow district voters to choose electors pledged to their preferred ticket. congress certainly can't direct voters how to vote but neither could congress direct electors how to vote except as consistent with the popular vote in the jurisdiction otherwise the amendment would amount to nothing. yet that's precisely what the scholars examples come to. thus, if district voters went overwhelmingly for electors pledged to the democrat ticket while in the rest of the country the republican ticket got the most electoral college votes or won the national popular vote, the district's voters would effectively count for nothing because the electors they voted for would be required to ignore how they voted. that would surely raise constitutional issues. in short, i don't see how this
bill, if enacted, can overcome the constitutional and practical challenges 22 state attorneys general have promised it's going to face. thank you. >> thank you, mr. pilon. our final witness is derek t. muller, a professor of law at the university iowa college of law. mr. muller focuses on election law, federal courts, civil procedure, administrative law and evidence. his research concentrates on states and federal elections. welcome to the committee. you may proceed with your opening comments. >> thank you, chairman peters, ranking member portman and members of the committee. i appreciate the kind invitation to attend here today. i'm a professor of law. i teach election law and federal courts. today i'm here to talk about four points on voting issues relating to the district.
these are not abstract questions about statehood, these are practical problems related to s-a 51 as it presently exists. first, the 23rd amendment guarantees it would have three electoral votes no matter how few people reside in it. while most of the district of columbia would become a state, the new seat would be known as capitol and capitol would be entitled to three electoral votes. the boundaries of capitol map on to a census tract. it had 33 inhabitants in the 2010 census and 58 in the 2019 survey. a tiny group of prospective voters potentially including the president and family who happen to reside here now have three electoral votes. second, s-51 does not adequately address the 23rd amendment and related voting issues. to start, there is no guarantee of repeal of the 23rd amendment. the vote simply hopes it will happen. if there was a legal controversy, everyone has an incentive to wait and see the legal process play out.
i assume district residents would prefer to retain the 23rd amendment rather than see it repealed. amending the constitution is a hard thing to do. it's been done once in the last 50 years. we've had a lull period and we should not simply wish for future events to occur. additionally section 53 is misleading. titled repeal of law and election of president and vice president. in my judgment, this does not repeal the law providing for participation in the presidential election, which is currently codified in the d.c. code and would continue to be in force after s-51 was enacted. it is a provision enacted to prevail the electoral count act. not the district's participation in an election. section 221 of the bill may be unconstitutional. eligible voters in capitol who were previously domiciled to register in their former states and request absentee ballots for
their elections but states have the broad power of qualification including reasonable citizenship, age, residency requirements. congress's authority is deeply contested. if this is contested in court, a related provision in federal law that requires tens of thousands of military and overseas voters may well be? peril. third, state hood should be conditioned on repeal of the 23rd amendment. an amendment might condition repeal in the event it falls below a certain threshold, if the bulk of the district of columbia gets state hood. fourth, alternative statutory solutions present legal and practical problems. none of them are present in s-51. they're the stuff of conjecture at the moment. if congress decided to provide anything at all, congress would be derelict in its duty. the supreme court has repeatedly noted that in the context of an election shall places a duty.
the constitution provides in the 23rd amendment the district shall appoint electors. congress might appoint a law awarding them to the electoral college or national popular vote. it provides that the district shall appoint and congress may direct to the manner. the first clause is the who. the second clause is the how. if congress chooses a manner to award electors based on what happens in the rest of the united states, it is hard to say that the district has appointed anyone.
selection must occur within a place not outside it. a word warding capitol's electors to the national popular vote suffers too. how does it handle litigation and recounts? voter eligibility varies from state to state. different candidates appear on the ballot in different states. while some variation in election procedures is inevitable and may violate the equal protection clause, it presents practical matter. it doesn't weigh in on the merits, it is about the practicalities what have it would do. it only addresses practical voting rights problems. these are serious and vexing problems. thank you for the opportunity to testify. i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you, for your testimony here today. >> as we sit here and have this hearing in the united states
senate, we are within a city outside these grounds that is populated by over 700,000 americans who simply do not have equal representation or an equal voice in this congress. mr. moriale, as president and ceo of the national urban league, you lead an organization that is dedicated to achieving equal rights. would you explain to this committee how d.c. statehood furthers our democratic promise of equal representation and how ensuring d.c.'s very diverse population has a voice in congress, this is part of the american civil rights movement? i think you are on mute. >> thank you very much, chairman peters. it's axiomatic that the right to vote is fundamental to american
democracy. think of what we have here. 700,000 american citizens who comply with our laws, pay federal taxes, participate in our society, are the only who do not have the right to vote in federal elections in a way that counts and of course excluding territories. that robs the residents of the district of columbia a voice in many critical decisions, war and peace, taxation, regulation, distribution of proceeds, and i could continue to list it. it is just so basic. we fought as a nation in the 20th century to expand the right
to vote first to women with the passage of the 20th -- rather, the 19th amendment. to african-americans with the enactment of the voting rights act which made real the promise of the 14th and 15th amendments. with the constitutional ban on poll taxes. in every single instance, this is one of the last pieces of that i think important shift in how we govern this nation. for us at the national urban league, nothing is more fundamental than the right to vote. the ability to choose a member of the house who has a vote on the floor of the house, to choose two members of the united states senate who have a say in all of the important proceedings. i might add that right now federal judges and superior court judges are appointed by the president of the united states and ratified or, rather, confirmed by the senate with no voice by the members of the
district of columbia, by the residents of the district of columbia in any choice, for u.s. attorney, for district court judge, for appellate court judge or even the court that deals with, if you will, the counterpart to state laws in the district of columbia, the superior court. no voice by the residents of the district of columbia. this is an injustice, and all of the legalistic arguments do not address the fundamental basic issue, and that is the right to vote. so i think i speak for the broad civil rights community and for the voting rights community in saying that this is a long, long battle whose time has come. it's time to enact this bill. >> thank you. our country was founded on the principle of no taxation without
representation. key part of the -- what inspired the revolutionary war, but the reality for d.c. residents is that unlike any other citizen of this country, they pay taxes -- federal taxes without having full representation in congress. in fact, residents of district of columbia currently pay more than $6.9 billion annually in federal income taxes. that is more than residents in over 20 states and it means d.c. residents pay more per return in federal income tax than residents of any other state. mayor bowser, under the status quo in your mind is it fair that d.c. residents are paying billions of dollars in taxes every year to the federal government and yet have no say in how those taxpayers -- or how
that taxpayer money is being spent? >> it's absolutely unfair, mr. chairman, and you laid it out perfectly. it is a question of fairness and it is a question for us what we are entitled to as american citizens and taxpayers. what we have spent many, many years making sure that everybody recognizes is that the residents of the district of columbia, we pay our own way. we run our own government. we are a state, a city and a county all at once. and it is very important that a jurisdiction as well-run as ours, jurisdiction that has built its population, its tax base, has built a triple a bond rating on wall street have full representation in the congress
but also that we have full autonomy over our decisions. >> well, thank you, mayor, for that response. i need to step out and be on the floor of the senate and so i'm going to turn over the gavel to senator carper, but i will now recognize senator johnson. i know senator and ranking member portman has stepped away. he has yielded his time to you, senator johnson. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chairman. so we've heard approximately about an hour of testimony, opening statements in favor of d.c. statehood and about 15 minutes of the counter argument there, which i found quite convincing. the complexities of it, the difficult nature of the constitution as well as the statutes. a number of times we've -- i've heard that something just isn't
constitutional about this, that there's constitutional rights being violated yet the constitution set up the district specifically. mr. pilon, can you talk about what the founders had in mind and why they set the district apart separate from the type of statehood that we have in the rest of the country. >> i'd be delighted to do so, senator johnson. and the argument can be found in federalist 43 by james madison in which interdependency and the problem it poses runs throughout the arrangements that were set forth to create a separate district of columbia such that it wouldn't be -- the federal
government wouldn't being seated in any one of the particular states. they had experience with that in 1783 under the articles of confederation where the then continental congress was meeting in philadelphia at the time, and they were confronted with a mob that sought to storm the constitutional hall. and, indeed, were forced to flee because the local government would not take measures to prevent that mob from doing so. that was clearly on their mind when they drafted the constitution's enclave clause which provides for a district no larger than ten miles square, not ten square miles. there's a difference between the two. >> there's obviously a conflict between a central federal government versus the sovereign states. those individuals that are within district obviously have a vested interest in a very powerful federal government,
correct? >> yes. >> which is counter to the power vested in the states, the states want to maintain their sovereign power, right? >> yes. >> from my standpoint, we can talk about the constitution at, the complexities with the statutes and how do you deal with the 23rd amendment. to me this just seems like a naked power grab. i thought it was interesting, senator lieberman talked about nobody can predict how the district would vote. i think you can predict quite handily. he cited alaska and hawaii as examples what people thought -- how they thought they would vote is completely flipped but i don't think either hawaii or alaska have these types of voting histories. in 2020, 92.2% of d.c. votes
went to the democratic candidate. 5.4% went to the republican candidate. in the last 80 elections no republican candidate's gotten more than 10% of the vote. that's over 28 years. again, i would argue that certainly has something to do with the vested interests of the people here in d.c. who there's certainly poverty here, but this district is not made of many disadvantaged individuals because the average median income of the district of columbia is $92,000. that compares to the average median income nationally of $65,000. 34% of the residents of the district of columbia that are 25 years or older have some kind of postgraduate or professional degree versus 13% of the rest of the population. this is an elite group of people here that have a vested interest in the power of the federal government and i think that is one of the issues that we need to address when we're talking
about whether we should grant statehood to the district of columbia. professor miller, would you agree with that? what would your comments be on that? >> i think statehood is a question of representation and a question of the kinds of issues that the members of this committee are debating to determine whether or not it should look like the present form, whether it should look like statehood, whether it should look like retrocession. >> in the end, people choose to live here as well. madam mayor, i can't let this opportunity pass as long as you're here testifying before committee to just talk about what i consider the important constitutional issue, which is the equal administration of justice. so just a couple questions in terms of how the district has handled people who have rioted
in the summer versus people who have breached the capitol. i condemn both equally. have you determined -- have you seen any information in terms of insurance claims of how much damage -- property damage was done during the summer rioting? do you have a figure on that? we know nationally those riots close to $2 billion in insurance claims. >> well, thank you, senator, for your interest in the district, but i have to address your question first by talking about the residents of d.c. 700,000 people, hard working individuals who educate their children, start businesses and work in the district. it would be incorrect to say that d.c. residents have more of an interest in the federal government than other americans. we know that we have federal -- >> again, that's not the question. >> all over. >> that's not the question i asked you. could you answer the question i asked you? do you have a property damage estimate from the summer riots? >> i'm glad to hear you say that
you are opposed to riotous behavior, whether it happened on 16th street or here at the capitol. >> could you answer the question? do you have an estimate of the property damage during the summer riots? >> know that we had one night of rioting in the district in the summer. >> do you know how many people were arrested for the summer riots? >> we've had dozens of people arrested over the last year. >> how many are still being detained? >> i don't know. i don't know the answer to that. >> do you know whether by using geo location, did we go and arrest people that participated in the summer riots in their individual states like we did with the january 6th breachers? >> if you're asking how the federal bureau of investigation operates, you'll have to address those questions to them. i can speak for the metropolitan police department and we do not permit any riotous behavior,
whoever is conducting it. and we have made arrests in both cases, in cases where we had riotous behavior, and that is a specific behavior here on the congress's grounds and on city streets. >> my final point is i know the house of representative members have written a letter to you inquiring about the conditions in the d.c. jail, which people are being held basically the entire population in some form solitary confinement. when you respond to their letter, i'd like you to send me the same response. >> well, senator, you are aware that our criminal justice system is also unique in the american system, that we have -- our metropolitan police department makes arrests but all arrests are processed through a federal system, through the courts who have federally appointed judges, pre-trial system that is federal as well. we operate a d.c. jail and if there are any concerns about conditions at the jail, i will address them.
>> there aren't. i'm asking you to respond to me when you respond to the house members who are asking about the conditions of solitary confinement if you would. >> yes. and having control of our criminal justice system is a driving force behind why we need statehood. certainly we've talked about representation but being able to enforce our own laws is important to how we operate our jurisdiction. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator johnson. for our witnesses, let me note members of the committee will have the opportunity and right to submit questions for the record and if they exercise that right, then we would just appreciate very much your timely response. again, we thank all of you for joining us today and to testify and present your points of view. i'm going to ask if i can for dr. primus, if you don't mind, dr. primus, i'd like you to just
reflect on what we've heard today from dr. pilon and from mr. muller and to ask, is there anything you've heard from either of these witnesses, anything you would like to just comment on please? thanks. >> sure. it's a privilege to share the hearing with both of them. they're both people who think a lot about these issues. the first thing i would note is that there's something a little bit curious about the contention we've heard from professor muller that we shouldn't count on the ability to repeal the 23rd amendment. it's true repeal doesn't happen by itself but here's what i want to point out to the committee in
a very, very big picture way. many members of the united states senate are committed to a theory of constitutional interpretation that goes by the theory of originalism. it's associated by late justice scalia. one of the very basic premises is that it's binding. if we don't like what it means, we can change it. that is, the whole theory is premised on the idea that the constitution can be amended whenever we the people want. to take the view that the 23rd amendment couldn't be amended, to think it's unrealistic, even though it's pointless, nobody would want it around if s-51 were to be adopted, is to essentially say the theory of originalism is all wrong, is a fable. i don't think that's the position, that everyone who's a member of the u.s. senate wants to endorse. i should also say briefly about one of dr. pilon's points --
>> i'm sorry? >> thank you. i just was listening to something senator johnson said. anything else you want to say on this point? >> very briefly. dr. pilon says that there's disagreement among the scholars who wrote in to support the constitutionality of this bill. it's true, there is disagreements about what the best way to solve the problem is. there are many possible solutions and as among many adequate possible solutions, not everyone agrees on what the best solution is. everyone agrees the problems are solvable. professor muller agrees, i agree with this also. i could if the committee wanted to speak about specific details of complexities that are raised and why they're actually not problems or solvable, but we all
agree all of these problems are solvable and none of them should be an obstacle to s-51. >> thank you very much for that response. as you mentioned in your testimony, some people believe that the district of columbia can only become a state through constitutional amendment. the bill that many of our colleagues have co-sponsored as well as 40 constitutional experts who signed a letter of support believe otherwise. professor primus i'm going to ask you a series of questions if you don't mind. the first of those was how many of the 37 states admitted into the union after the original 13 colonies were done so by a constitutional amendment? >> none. >> second, did congress require constitutional amendment to shrink the capitol in 1846 when it gave land back to virginia? >> no, it did not. >> third, what is the maximum
size of the seat of government established in the constitution? does it require a minimum size? >> the maximum is 10 miles square, that's plain text. there is no minimum size. it's left to the judgment of congress. >> thank you. and lastly, can you speak briefly as to why a constitutional amendment is not required, nor the norm and -- >> ones at this -- >> wait, wait, wait. can you speak briefly as to why constitutional amendment is not required nor the norm in entering a state into the union and how the constitution grants congress the authority to make a state. go right ahead. >> well, this is just the text of the constitution. the constitution, article 4
section 3 contains the admissions clause which says that congress can admit new states into the union. like every other power expressly vested in congress by the constitution, except where specifically specified otherwise, that power is accomplished by congressional action by a majority of each house and then presented to the president. in the small number of cases where something has to be done differently, the constitution specifies that it has to be done differently. this isn't just an oversight. at the constitutional convention in 1787 there was a proposal considered to require a super majority of congress to consent to the admission of new states and it was rejected. it was felt this was the sort of thing that congress can do all by itself in the normal way that it does everything else. that's just the text of the constitution. to say that it has to be done in some other way is to simply say something that the constitution doesn't say. if i might say one other thing. the suggestion that congress needs maryland's permission is not supported by the clause. it's true that maryland gave the
land to the united states to be used as the district, but the land was used as the district. suppose you wanted to bike to work instead of to drive and i said, i have an extra bike, why didn't you just take my bike. here, it's a present.district. but the land was used as the district. um, suppose you wanted to bike to work, instead of to drive. and i said i have an extra bike. why don't you just take my bike? here, it's a present. and for ten year, you use my bike. and, you know, ride it every day. and then, ten years later, you decide that you want to do something else with the bike. you are going to ride it on weekends or you're going to give it to your kid or some such thing. you don't need to come back and ask me to do that. i gave you the bike. that i -- i didn't say, if you do something with it, otherwise, one day, you have to give it back to me. that's the position we're in. the -- d.c. belongs to the united states. >> thank you for that -- that response. we have been joined by senator lankford. i'm pleased to recognize him, at
this time. thank you for joining us, james. >> senator carver, thank you very much. i know you have been in this dialogue for a very long time and that you have been engaged in this, as many of you have been engaged for a very, very long time on this. you also note my predecessor and the last time there was a hearing on this, senator coburn, when he came into this hearing, sat down, said there was' a waste of time and walked out. and i know y'all had -- >> a man of few words. >> yes. i know that y'all had multiple conversations on things you agree on. i know this was also an area you had strong disagree -- >> we had a great friendship. he was a good talker. i was a good listener. >> well, i -- i appreciate the dialogue on this. and to be able to go through it. obviously, this has been a point of conversation for many people, for a very long time. to be able to talk about this. i want to begin with a larger question on this. and that is the issue of retrocession. obviously, we've walked through this area before as a nation that the southern portion of the
district of columbia retroceded back to virginia in 1846. i think just about everybody on the panel has mentioned that so far today so be able to discuss retrocession. what is the barrier to retrocession with maryland today? >> yes, thank you, senator lankford. that issue, with respect to the retrocession of virginia 1847, '46, has never been tested. it arose in a private taxpayer suit. some 30 years later the court declined to address the merits because so much water had gone under the bridge, and so much would have to be disturbed. um, many people have questioned whether that retrocession was legitimate, including no less than president lincoln and president taft and others. and so, it remains an open
question. >> so there -- what is the way that that would have to be resolved? >> well, the court would have to speak to it, first of all. >> well, you'd have to find someone withstanding to speak to it. >> yeah, the standing issue would certainly come up. but with respect to retrocession to maryland, which is what your opening question was about. there, you would certainly need the consent of maryland to do that. in fact, if i may respond to a point that professor primus made, the -- the -- the grant of land from maryland to the district was made, pursuant to article 4 -- article 1 the enclave clause. for the specific -- expressly, for the specific purpose of creating a seat for the new government. now, he used the hypothetical. i'll give you a hypothetical.
suppose that, immediately, upon receiving that land, the -- the federal government turned around and created a state, rather than the seat of of the new government. everybody would agree, that was sheer-political mischief. well, if that's the case, then what difference does it make whether they did it immediately? or in the -- of 200 years? the principle remains the same. they did not use it for the purposes for which the land was granted. but to do -- to do something completely different and that raises a serious problem, in and of itself. and it raises the article 4 question, too. because in order for the federal government, congress, to make a state out of the district, you would need, had they done that initially, the consent of maryland to do that under article 4. it seems to me that consent
will, still, be needed even though it's more than 200 years later. >> it is interesting. look back on history of this conversation. again, none of this is new in this dialogue. in 1963, at that time, attorney general robert kennedy wrote while congress's power to legislate for the district is a continuing power, its power to create the district by acceptance of secession contemplates a single act. the constitution makes no provision for revocation and the act of acceptance or for retrocession. >> right. >> and then, ed meese, then a couple decades later then as our attorney general in 1987 wrote clearly the district chosen would not exceed ten miles square but under the language of that clause, once this district became the seat of government, the authority of congress over its size and location seems to have been exhausted. the constitution appears to leave congress no authority to redefine the district's boundaries absent an amendment granting it that power.
now, obviously, constitutional scholars, even at this conversation, have disagreed with that. what is your thoughts? >> well, attorney general kennedy was absolutely right. the -- the creation of the district was a single act. it was completed. it was done. now, you've got to look where congress might have other authority to -- to turn that district into something like a new state. the other side points to the fourth -- to article 4. the problem there is that the district is unique. this is not a normal creation of a state process, as though you were doing it under article 4 with the federal territory, say, the northwest territory, the louisiana purchase. land that would require clear contemplation of new states being created for it.
the district of columbia was not created with the contemplation of a new state being created from it. >> mayor bowser, it's good to see you, again. we have had the opportunity to be able to chat for several years now so it's good to see you, again. let me ask you a couple questions on this, as well. were you surprised at the original design of the transition of leadership that the mayor, whoever the mayor was at whatever time this would be, would automatically become governor in that transition. obviously, federal officials would have to go under an election but -- sorry, at that point, the district leadership would become state leadership and be an automatic transition. is that surprising to you, just in the structure of it? >> we -- we convened -- over several months, d.c. residents participated in how they would want the state government to look and in that constitution, we expanded democracy by adding more state legislatures.
which is -- was -- is important. but also, just converted the -- the existing-elected officials to seats. and the constitution, also, contemplates the election of the new-state representatives and the federal officials. >> okay. let -- let me follow through on -- on one more issue that is -- is connected but not connected on this. washington, d.c., during the pandemic-time period, had the most strict religious-liberty restrictions of all across the united states. with the limitations for gathering of people of faith to be able to gather indoors. there was a lot of pushback that happened. you -- you, eventually, changed that and opened that up a little bit. but it was -- it was still a very, very strict nonallowance, i guess, i should say, for people of faith to be able to meet. whether it was last easter or other times to be able to gather and to be able to go through all these. they're just -- their normal faith gathering time period.
you have to know that congress, overwhelmingly passed, in 1993, the religious freedom restoration act and it's interesting to me, during this time period in this conversation, delegate norton introduced h.r. 40-23 which would amend the religious freedom restoration act and would take out the applicability of that to washington, d.c. that washington, d.c. would no longer fall under the religious freedom restoration act, as the rest of america would. and watching what happened for the limitation of people of faith during the time of the pandemic, i am trying to figure out if this became a new state. kind of the direction that this seems to be headed for people of faith to be able to live out their faith. now, i have no belief that you are trying to limit people from having faith in d.c. but it was odd, during this season of the pandemic, to see such strong limits on people of faith gathering together. can you help me understand that? >> well, certainly. the limits were, you know, the covid restrictions were for everybody.
um, and i -- i don't have to tell you that we faced a 100-year pandemic. and i am very proud of d.c. residents, businesses, houses of worship, who followed health guidance and allowed us to crush this virus. that's why i can sit here, today, with d.c. fully open. and i know that we saved lives by flattening the curve, keeping people out of the hospital and intensive cares. and making sure our first responders could respond to the virus. so i'm proud of the work that we did. certainly, what health guidance told us, senators, were that some indoor spaces were more of a risk for transmission of the virus than others. and unfortunately, churches were among them. and i -- believe me, i've had this debate. i have had this debate with my own church, in court. and we have come to -- we came
to many compromises. it was always our intent to make sure that people of faith and houses of worship all across the district could practice their faith. but also, practice it safely. i don't have to remind you. our very first case in the district was in a church. and we saw the spread of the virus, and we learned a lot about the spread of the virus from case-number one. so the work that we did was important. it was necessary. and the compromises that we made were, also, good ones. >> it is a -- it is a interesting balance to be able to walk through the first amendment protections and, also, pandemic protections. in this process. and as you know, many churches left the district to be able to go worship a few miles away. either, in maryland or in virginia, where they could meet for worship to be able to gather indoors or outdoors. and i understand, as the mayor, you make difficult calls. but there is a unique protection for people of faith to be able
to live out their faith, and be able to guard that. so i appreciate the dialogue. >> sure. >> and let me yield back time. i apologize for going a little bit long. >> happy you're here. thank you for your questions. you know, it'd be interesting to know. senator lankford's probably -- a number of members of our body here are people of deep faith. none, deeper than his. and it'd be interesting to -- to know. you know, worship services, all different faiths, ebbs and flows over time. and we are seeing some ebbing going along in most major faiths in this country today. it'd be interesting to -- and i don't -- and i don't presume to believe anybody knows what this number would be but it'd be interesting to know what church attendance is like in the district as maybe it's compared to some of our other states. that'd be interesting. maybe, i'll ask that question for the record. it'd be interesting to see what that looks like. i have a follow-on question, if i could, for -- for -- and i'd ask the -- the mayor, if you could handle this. but i also want to ask mr.
moriel to join, as well. so i'd ask the two of you to tag team it. i'd never imagined as elected official, retired navy captain, vietnam veteran, but i never imagined serving when serving in all those capacities that i would end up leading a charge in the senate to -- to fight on behalf of the residents of the 51st state. but that's where we find ourselves. and i think we regularly see the -- the -- the negative effects of -- on d.c. residents of not having a vote or a voice in congress. we have talked about that, especially during a global pandemic. as a district with 46% african-american population, let's not forget that, like other communities, african-americans are suffering disproportionately or have suffered disproportionately in d.c. from the covid-19 pandemic
and most of those affected in d.c. are people of color, as you know. and i am told about 75% of those who have died here are african-american. and i would ask, mayor, and then, mr. muriel, can you speak on -- to the issue of inequality here? and, mayor bowser, could i, please, ask you to speak to why the nearly 700,000 district residents, our fellow americans, have been and continue to be disproportionately impacted during the pandemic as a result of not being a state? >> well, thank you, senator. and your -- i think you're just about right about those stats. we saw, early on in the pandemic, that our african-american residents were not only being infected with covid-19 but dying from covid-19, in vastly greater numbers than their white counterparts. we know that african-americans and our latino residents are more likely to be in
essential-work positions. and were -- were unable to stay at home, when stay-at-home orders were introduced across america because they were the grocery workers. they were the nursing assistants. they were the -- the people that were keeping our sanitation services going across america. so, they were getting infected more. and because of centuries of disinvestment in our health, we're also dying more. what was a tragedy, that we didn't expect during all of this, as we're facing a 100-year pandemic, is that we would be left out of the emergency funding that we so desperately needed to stand up testing. to build alternative-care sites. to make sure that we could provide alternate spaces for learning by -- in the cares act.
$755 million, we were shortchanged. and we spent the better part of the year making sure we got that money back. and i'm grateful to this congress for seeing -- seeing that through. but what that meant, senator, for the first time in -- in no one could remember since that we were treated in a -- in a -- a formula with territories, rather than being treated like a state when we are for hundreds of federal -- in hundreds of federal statutes. so it just made clear, to all of us, how important it was that our -- what our practical operation, as a state, a county, and a city can only be codified. and not reversed in any piece of legislation with statehood.
>> all right. thank you for that response. mr. moriel, would you like to add to those words? >> let me say, senator carver, appreciate you raising this issue. a few important facts. the united states is approximately 14% african-american. the district of columbia is some 46 to 50% african-american. the failure to provide federal-voting rights, voting rights for a member of congress and two u.s. senators, for the 51st state disproportionately impacts a large number of african-american citizens of the united states. there was, once, a time when the district of columbia was as much as 70% african-american.
and d.c. became, in the early-20th century, a place where african-american residents of virginia, north carolina, and south carolina and the old south is a part of the great-migration transition to. they had no right to vote in alabama or georgia or south carolina or north carolina or virginia. and they had no right to vote in the district of columbia. then, the voting rights act came along. and people in alabama, georgia, south carolina, and north carolina, virginia, louisiana, texas, and florida gained the right to vote for members of the house and members of the united states senate. but the members of the district of columbia, the black residents and beyond the black residents were left out and left behind. mayor bowser identified the
structural impact of this is that d.c., for many federal programs is treated like a territory which denies the residents of district of columbia including its black residents, not only in voting but across the board. and that is a structural inequity that is associated with this fundamental denial of the right to vote. one only believes, as i do, that the residents of the district of columbia have been patient since 1965. have been patient, as they sought to achieve and to accomplish their full rights, as american citizens. and i doubt, if anyone else, outside of the district of columbia, would stand for being
disenfranchised, in the way the residents of the district of columbia have been disenfranchised. this -- this is something, whose time has come. and this is something that is a right. >> thank you for those words. i -- that was very insightful. thank you. i have been joined by senator rosen. i want to thank you for joining us today for being a supporter of this legislation, and you're now recognized. thank you. thanks, senator rosen. >> wow. thank you, senator carper. appreciate your work on this for many years. and your chairmanship of this committee, in the past. i really like to thank mayor bowser, congresswoman holmes norton. well, senator liebermann has left. but everyone for being here and for the work that you have been doing because we know there's a lot of contributions from our d.c. residents i like to say every senator is the pattern of an only child, the states we represent. and we are so, incredibly proud of them, right? we're their biggest cheerleader. their biggest champion. and so for me, that means nevada
and i couldn't be prouder of our great state and its amazing people. but we weren't always a state. we began as a territory, becoming part of the united states. but not, yet, a full state. via treaty in mexico in 1848. that's when we were atoritory. in the beginning, we didn't even have our name. we were part of the utah territory. becoming a nevada territory only in 1861 and it wasn't until october 31st, nevada day, we call it now, 1864 in the midst of the civil war. just eight days before president lincoln's re-election that nevada, the battle-born state became the 36th state in the union. i am a co- -- proud co-sponsor of s.51. the bill that provides statehood to d.c. and so, i am so glad to hear your story, and have that become part of your state's story when somebody tells that, in the future. and so, we just want you to be the parents of the newest state.
so, mayor bowser, as a proud d.c. resident, as its elected-chief executive, can you tell us about some of the wonderful contributions that d.c. residents make to our -- not just this community but to our country every day? >> well, thank you for that question, senator. and thank you for sharing the nevada story. and we do, indeed, look forward to -- to telling the d.c. story. and being admitted, just like nevada was, by a simple legislation by this congress who has that -- that full authority. when we think about d.c. residents, we're -- we're eight wards, 700,000 people. people who start businesses here. who raise their children here. and pay their taxes. in fact, they pay more taxes per capita than -- than any other american. and we pay more taxes than -- than 20 states. we are a, what we call, a donor state to the federal government.
and sometimes, people are mistaken and think that the federal government pays to operate the district of columbia. and that's just not the case. i presented, just a couple of weeks ago, a $17 billion budget to the council of the district of columbia which will become our state legislature. and unlike other mayors, we operate a school system. we operate our corrections system, our department of motor vehicles. so, in so many ways, we already function as a state. >> you're the busiest mayor, is that what you're saying? but you are the most diverse mayor, perhaps, because diversity is a strength, that's for sure. and like d.c., nevada's population, i'll tell you about our state, incredibly diverse. our strength, as well. we have 30% latino, 10% african-american, about 9.5% api community. in fact, we have the fastest-growing aapi community. one of them, in the nation.
and while d.c. is often called out for having lots of newcomers, nevada has many new residents, as well. and sometimes, we have been known to be the fastest-growing state in the country. and so, only 25% of nevada's 3 million residents were actually born in nevada. so our diverse population, the influx of people from all around the nation and the world that make us the dynamic state that we are. so, i know you, too, have a diverse population. comes from all over the country and all over the world. and why does it matter to this population, as well, that they're the 51st state? >> well, absolutely, we are diverse. and we're diverse in some ways that people don't recognize. we are, as -- as i call him mayor morial but president morial mentioned. and we're also growing with our
recent census. we are among the fastest-growing jurisdictions in the nation, as well. let me say something about our economic diversity. and frequently, we are thought of as a federal-government town. and indeed, we are proud to be host to the federal government. but the federal government's presence in the district of columbia has, actually, been decreasing over -- over many -- over a couple of decades. and so, federal jobs have been decreasing. federal workers have been decreasing. and even the federal use of space in the district has been decreasing, over several years. so we've been focused on how to diversify our economy, build private-sector jobs, focus on technology and hospitality and education. those are the jobs of the future in the district. and that's why our economy has been so robust. it was discussed, earlier, that
we're an elite place. speaking as the daughter of two government workers who raised five kids, and focused on family and faith in this city. i can tell you that people work hard here. but we, also, have a diversity of incomes. and even a diversity of views. so, we are particularly well situated, right now, senator, to be admitted as a state. you'll see, with our population, we're larger than two states, already. and we rival five others. and the way that we're growing, we'll achieve that. we're, by far, larger than most states when they were admitted to the union. so we are -- we are just poised to be a great benefit to the union, as the 51st state. >> well, thank you. i think you're a great benefit, already. appreciate your service.
and i will yield back my time. >> thanks. thanks very much for yielding. senator lankford, if you would like to be recognized, again, i'm happy to do that. >> senator carper, thank you very much for that. professor, i want to ask you a couple questions. and be able to follow up on some of your statements earlier. you had talked about the difference in this bill, the h.r. 51 bill, and the way that it handles the 23rd amendment. this bill says that we'll pass it. we will declare d.c. a state. and then, we'll get around to doing the 23rd amendment to be able to change the electors issue. you flipped that in your earlier statement and saying why wouldn't this be conditioned on the 23rd amendment being eliminated, first, to be able to make sure that there's not three additional electoral college -- i think you mentioned for 59 people, that would be in the new capital enclave, at that point. that those 59 people wouldn't have three electoral college votes. can you go into that a little deeper? >> sure. so the bill does anticipate an expedited repeal process.
it could only do one thing which is an article that says we repeal the 23rd amendment but, you know, until that happens, we have an enclave of around 59 people. some subset of that voters who would then be eligible to choose three presidential electors. and so, the -- the thought is, well, if we can push people and, hopefully, wait and see what happens and maybe the 23rd amendment will be repealed. so there's no condition on that. there is no sort of hard rule. the hard rule is that congress has to have a vote. there's no guarantee that two-thirds of each house of congress does it. there is not going to be a time limit about when 38 of 39 states approve that amendment. so it's sort of waiting to see what will happen while the 23rd amendment, giving three electoral votes to this enclave sits there. put a condition on the 23rd amendment saying if the population of the district executing the seat of government drops below a certain population threshold, then the 23rd article of the constitution is no longer
in place. 23rd article of amendment no longer applies and that way, we don't have these sorts of residual problems out there. >> do you know of any issue with trying to be able to form that -- that way, what you are describing as far as a constitutional issue or a problem with that is this. >> no, i think you could develop a constitutional amendment that would condition the repeal of the 23rd amendment on some, future event like retrocession or statehood for the district. i mentioned in my testimony some of the concerns about how to handle the capital voters left within that enclave. i think it can constitutional amendment that empowers congress expressly to handle those voters left in the capital. you could certainly fashion amendments and think creatively about how to address that solution holistically before you get to the statutory side. >> either way, there is a number of constitutional issues that still have to be resolved. obviously, the founders designed a capital region to never be a state. i mean, that was the design in the constitution.
to say, this is uniquely so that the federal government does not exist within the -- under the authority of any state or trying to interact with the state. it was designed very particularly to be able to make sure that, constitutionally, there would always be a region that is there. that was established so the federal government didn't have to worry about what -- what -- what's state? what's federal? and living under that. so, there are lots of constitutional questions here that the farther you go, the larger the constitutional questions get. many of them are novel. they're never been addressed, before. obviously, the retrocession to virginia of the southern portion of d.c. was never -- southern portion of d.c. was never really resolved, long term. that one still hangs out there but all the other constitutional issues still reserve, is that correct? or not correct? >> right. there are a number of unsettled constitutional issues. you have heard about some of them today and they've been written about for decades. >> right. 200 plus years, any individual that moves to washington, d.c. understands that washington, d.c. is unique. this is a place where you don't
have a vote for a senator or a house member. of late, of the last 100 years, we've had a delegate in the house. but it's been well known that, when you move to washington, d.c., at any point, you're moving to an area that doesn't have a two senators or a house member. correct? or not correct? >> yes, that's correct. >> so, i -- when i look at it and just the transition of this. that is a given statement for anyone that's moving. my -- my hometown of oklahoma city is ten times the size of washington, d.c. but there are still individuals that want to live in edmond or norman or in moore or in bethany and they choose to be able to move out of oklahoma city. but still, commute back and forth in other areas to be able to work or live because it's a choice that they make. in an area that is literally one-tenth of the size of my hometown of oklahoma city, people have options to be able to still work and be able to travel, and be able to move into other areas. if they wanted to be able to
work in washington, d.c., many people live in maryland or in virginia or in west virginia and drive in to be able to be here from longer distances. but that's a volitional choice. no one is compelled to actually be here knowing that's been the situation for more than 200 years, correct? >> yes. >> okay. thank you. >> thank you, senator lankford. chair recognizes senator hawley for your question. >> thanks very much, mr. chairman. and thanks to all the witnesses for being here. dr. pilon, let me just start with you, if i could. just help me understand the history here. my understanding is that the united states justice department, the office of legal counsel, has weighed in on this question a number of times over the course of its history. to my knowledge, the office of legal counsel has never said that congress has the ability, by statute, to turn the district of columbia into a state. is that correct? >> that is correct. the only exception occurred during the obama administration. when the office of legal counsel
gave the no-go for this. and so, he turned to the solicitors general's office. and the solicitor general said we can defend this and, of course, that's very precious because that's the job of the solicitor general's office, to defend even unconstitutional matters that may turn out to be such. >> sure. so what happened was the attorney general, under that administration, got a consistent answer. the same answer that attorneys general had been getting and presidents had been getting for decades. decided he didn't like that answer. and said, well, maybe -- maybe, somebody else will give me a different answer. but consistently, the office of legal counsel, which is that unit in the justice department, that office, that is charged with looking at these constitutional questions and providing dispassionate, impartial, nonpartisan, legal counsel has consistently said there's no constitutional authority for congress to snap its fingers. use a statute to turn d.c. into a state. >> right. >> now, tell me about -- this is of course -- that's a bipartisan tradition. you mention in your written
testimony one pretty prominent democrat attorney general, robert kennedy. he rendered a fairly lengthy opinion on this. tell us about the significance of robert kennedy's opinion, back in 1963, i think it was, when he said that, no, the constitution does not give congress the power, by statute, to turn d.c. into a state. of course, it can be done by constitutional amendment. how, exactly, would have to be worked out but that's not what we are talking about here. we are talking about just doing it by statute. even robert kennedy said, no, that can't be done. tell us about the sig nif kaps of his opinion. >> well, the significance, beyond the fact that he was a democrat, comes from the fact that he said that this is a single act. the creation of the district. then, the question becomes, does congress have authority to do what is contemplated by these various proposals that have come over the years? and the conclusion that the office of legal counsel gave him was that, no, they do not. it is a single act to create the district. it is finished. if you want do something more,
like retrocession and so forth, you're going to need to find some authority under the constitution. and the important issue here was just brought up by senator lankford. namely, that the district is unique. it's not an ordinary process of creating a new state from territory acquired for the express purpose of creating new states from it. the louisiana purchase, et cetera. it is sui generous. it was created, expressly, under article 1, not under article 4, to be the seat of the federal government. under this bill, s.51, the seat of the government would be this tiny enclave. and i just invite you to think, in response to an earlier question from senator lankford, what this would mean with as much reduced authority of
congress to have exclusive jurisdiction over this tiny enclave. it means that, for example, they are dependent upon this new, untested state for everything from power to water to fire protection and going on and on. we can imagine how the framers did not want that. and they didn't want it, expressly, because of what the experience, as we testified earlier, they had under 1783. when the congress was attacked by a mob. >> well, let me ask you this. so just -- so we have the -- we have the scene set. the constitution of the united states expressly and explicitly creates the district of columbia. it designates it as the seat of government. we have the 23rd amendment, which comes along and ratifies that, essentially. i mean, it is already in the constitution. the 23rd amendment ratifies that so it is there. it's not an unincorporated
territory. it's created as the seat of government. now, my understanding of constitutional law is congress cannot, by legislation, override the constitution. am i right about that basic understanding? >> it's con law 101. >> now, what if congress really, really wants to? like, what if congress thinks, no, it's really, really important that we overide the constitution. do they get to do it then? >> that's called the demise of the rule of law. >> i am looking here at a series of news articles from the last year and a half. the nation. democrats have inherited a broken senate. can they make it work? it calls for d.c. statehood to add two more democrats. nbc news, new push for washington, d.c. statehood hits the presidential campaign trail, imperative democrats say to add two more votes to the united states senate for them. new york magazine. d.c. statehood is the democrats' only option. vox. 11 ways to fix america's fundmently broke democracy. d.c. statehood to add two more democrat votes to the united
states senate. indivisible says making democracy reform a priority has to be d.c. statehood. all of this, the prejudice of all of these articles, which are very candid, is that democrats think they won't be able to control the united states senate in the long-term. they need to add two more democrat seats to control the senate so it's really, really important. if they think it's really, really important, does the constitution give them the authority to override what is actually written down in that text with the law? can they do that? >> let me get on the record an important point. it is often thought that we, on this side, are opposed to giving the district residents the vote. nothing could be further from the truth. the idea is, however, that you must do it in the right way. you've got do it in the constitutional way. and so, that means that you are going to have to address, among other things, the 23rd-amendment problem because there will, still, be people within this district who, still, have the right to vote.
you can't remove that from them by mere statute. it's got to have an amendment to do that. and indeed, if the table were -- were -- tables were reversed on some other issue, i think the other side would be screaming if this were attempted. >> and rightfully so. and i will just finish, mr. chairman, by saying that it is a fundamental premise of our democracy that the constitution of the united states is the supreme law of the land. that it binds all who live under it and we, the people, can change it. we, absolutely, can change it. we have a process to do that. a democratic process. what congress cannot do is override the constitution, any time it becomes inconvenient for a majority in congress. a temporary majority, as james madison would have said. today, it's the democrats. tomorrow, it's the republicans. after that, the democrats, again. who knows? the point is the constitution endures. and that is the fundamental premise of our democratic republic. and i fear that that premise is being threatened by this legislation. thank you, mr. chairman.
>> thank you, senator hawley. want to follow up on mr. pilon's comments on the 23rd amendment. this question's for you, mayor bowser. in -- in your written testimony, you state that it is, quote, it's particularly contradictory that the 23rd amendment is being held up as the main barrier to further expanding constitutional rights in the district. could you elaborate on this point for the committee, please? >> well, yes, mr. chairman. and let -- let me be clear, what the 23rd amendment does. the 23rd amendment allow d.c. residents a vote for president. and that was in the 1960s. so, let -- just let that marinate, for a second. before the 1960s, this is just, you know, just about ten years before i was born. we couldn't even vote for president. we couldn't even vote for president.
so, that's what the 23rd amendment does. its intent was to expand democracy to d.c. residents. and now, it's being held up as a barrier. i just ask you to -- to look at the comments that were submitted by 39 legal scholars. where professor primus -- primus has testified to today. that this -- the 23rd amendment -- poses no constitutional barrier to this bill's passage. d.c. can be admitted as a state. the practical concerns have been -- have been discussed. and this bill, also, lays out practical solutions by repealing the enforcement legislation. the 23rd amendment makes clear that congress. it is the congress, by statute, can enforce the 23rd amendment. must enforce the 23rd amendment. and that is what will happen,
after this bill is passed. >> thank you, mayor. mr. morial, i want to ask you a question related to the 23rd amendment, as well. and you have heard the mayor speak, and you have heard critics say that the 23rd amendment really provides sufficient voting rights, now. because you can vote for president. but that's -- that's part of it. could you, mr. morial, could you explain the importance of granting full voting rights and equal representation and how important that is, in your mind? >> every american citizen has the right. those that live in the states of the united states. the right to elect people to the legislative branch and the executive branch and, therefore, have a voice in the selection of the judicial branch. to suggest that, for the
residents of the district of columbia that, solely, having a right to participate in the presidential election. it's tantamount to the one-third rule. we'll give you one-third of your federal-voting rights and the other two-third, we're going to withhold. this is really -- i've listened, today, to a lot of arguments about the constitution and about the law. and i'm a lawyer. and respect those. but when you balance what is fundamental to the united states. all of our rights, as citizens. it is the right to vote, which is fundamental. when the 23rd amendment was passed, black d.c. residents did not have the protection of the voting rights act. poll tax was legal. these are different times, and i think that all of these arguments fall by the wayside when you balance it against the
necessity. what does a vote in congress give you an opportunity to do? participate in the appropriations process. participate in the process of writing laws. giving yourselves a voice on taxation issues, on regulatory issues. on a wide range of issues. the district of columbia is a dynamic community of 700,000 people. it's distinct from the state of maryland. its voters have -- have said we do not want to retrocede to maryland. in fact, the polling suggests that the residents of maryland have said we don't want the district of columbia to retrocede to us, either. so, this is so crucial that the right to vote is what is at stake here. the right to representation is at stake here. our soldiers have been overseas fighting in iraq. fighting in afghanistan. fighting for democracy. fighting for the right to vote. fighting for the right to participate.
for the -- for others to participate. what about right here, in the united states of america? why do we single out the residents of the district of columbia? forget the partisanship. forget who will vote for who. that's not what's at stake. if we really, truly want to be nonpartisan, we'll be like lady justice. we'll put a blindfold on, as to how the residents of the district of columbia might vote. and affirm their fundamental right to vote, without regard to who they may vote for. >> thank you, mr. morial. a -- a foundational principle of our nation, that i -- i think we can all agree on, it certainly was etched in the declaration of independence. is that government is derived and governments derived from just powers in the just powers they have is from the consent of the people. bottom line, it's from the consent of the people. professor primus, in your written testimony, you state
that that principle -- quote here -- animates the whole constitution and is the idea that congress should be electorally responsible to the people for whom it legislates. end of quote. professor, could you explain how d.c. statehood would fulfill our core-democratic principles, while, also, complying with the founding fathers' intent that there be an independent seat of government? i think you are on mute. >> now, senator? >> good. >> statehood would mean that d.c. residents, who are american citizens, can vote and be represented in congress. it's that simple. and s.51 would mean that the constitution's vision of a seat of government, that is not part of any state, would be maintained. we can have both. and if we can have both, then it doesn't seem to make sense to blame the constitution if we
decide not to have both. because the constitution lets us have both of those things. um, we heard, a few times today, that the constitution doesn't give congress the power to do this. but, in fact, the constitution does give congress the power to do this. that's article 4. congress has the power to admit new states. and that's all this would be. so sometimes, we've heard this discussed, as if there was a really powerful set of incentives to admit d.c. statehood but it can't be done because the constitution doesn't permit it, and we would disrespect the constitution to go forward. what actually disrespects the constitution is to pretend that the constitution says things that it doesn't, that stop us from doing the right thing. the constitution doesn't say that the seat of government has to be d.c., as we know it. the constitution doesn't say anything about d.c. or where it has to be.
or how small it can be. the constitution doesn't say that article 4 permits congress to admit new states but not d.c. we've heard, a number of times today, d.c. is unique. but article 4 doesn't say except d.c. all of those things that are raised as objections are, actually, not in the constitution. the constitution permits this, and the vision of representative government requires it. so congress could decide to do it, or not. but if congress doesn't do it, congress shouldn't say, we wish we could but the constitution prevents it. no one has identified anything in the constitution that prevents it. for the simple reason that nothing in the constitution does prevent it. >> thank you, professor primus. mayor bowser, the professor has just mentioned nothing is in the constitution that would prevent this from happening. so, we also like to think about
what, perhaps, were our founding fathers thinking as they wrote this? so, my question to you is, do you -- do you believe that preserving the status quo in d.c., where residents have no voice in their government, do you think that's what the founding fathers envisioned when they drafted and ratified the constitution? >> absolutely not, senator. we know, as -- as we've already discussed -- that ending taxation without representation was a principle that led to the independence of our nation. and it's a glaring contradiction of our democracy, that residents of the nation's capital, literally, people who could look out of their windows and see this building, don't have a -- a vote or a voice in this chamber. and no vote in the house of representatives. and as the professor outlined, it is -- it is very clear that the congress has the authority
to admit new states, including washington, d.c. and we know the time to correct that wrong is now. >> mr. morial, i mentioned men and women who are serving in the military from the district now. and we know, since world war i, around 200,000 brave men and women from washington, d.c. have -- have served in the armed forces. including 11,000 residents who are actively serving, right now. and roughly 30,000 veterans who live within the borders of d.c. mayor bowser, can you speak to the service and to the sacrifice of your veteran constituents? and -- and the injustice that they face, as they put their lives on the line to protect the rights of others. and yet, when they return to the city, those rights are actually being denied. >> yes, so our congresswoman spoke, very eloquently, when she started.
we represent 30,000 veterans. we see d.c. residents sign up and volunteer for the armed forces, every single day. our residents go to service account -- academies in service to their country. d.c. residents. you -- you note, senator, aren't asking for special treatment. we are asking to be treated equally. we have stepped up, in every case that we've been asked to serve our country. and we want to continue to be able to do that. when d.c. residents have two senators, they can argue for better treatment for our veterans. not just our own but veterans across america. we can stand, shoulder to shoulder, with you to make sure the veterans administration has
what it needs. or like i like to see here in washington, d.c., a world-class state-of-the-art new veteran's hospital for washington, d.c. we can be creative with you and our fellow americans in addressing the needs of our veterans, including work and job training, job opportunities, and housing. we can promote innovative-housing options, like we've done right here in washington, d.c. and share all of that learning with our fellow senators. so, our admission to the union is only going to enhance how our country really invests in response to our veterans. but imagine -- i think when we were here the last time, we were -- we were joined by members of our armed forces. who, when important measures come before this senate, like -- like mayor morial said, including issues of war and peace, they have no voice here.
and that is fundamentally unfair to their service. and unfair to their citizenship. >> thank you, mayor. senator carper, you're recognized for your questions. >> thank you. and thank you so much. i -- we appreciate your patience, as a panel voting on a number of bills and so thank you for bearing with us. >> you bet. >> thank you, mr. -- mr. chairman, as well. i -- i want to know one, last question, if i could, for doctor -- for professor primus. some folks are concerned that if statehood is granted to the district of columbia, the federal district is -- and the district is reduced -- the individuals living in the federal district will have outsized power due to the three electoral votes assigned to the district through the 23rd amendment. our bill of s.51 would repeal the enabling statute with a 23rd amendment and provide for expedited consideration of a joint resolution for appeal of
the amendment. it has the authority to remedy that situation. professor primus, can you take a moment to address the options congress has when it comes to dealing with the three electors assigned tot federal district? and why you don't see this as a constitutional obstacle, please? >> yes, senator, i'd be happy to. first, best-case scenario. i think, everyone agrees that the 23rd amendment should be repealed. and the good news is, if everyone agrees that it would be not a good situation to have a couple dozen people name three electors for the presidency. i think everyone does agree about that. repeal ought to come pretty quickly. if you think that we can't get repeal of the 23rd amendment, on those facts, it means that you don't believe that the constitution can be amended, at all. and that's a proposition that, i think, few of us want to endorse. now, until that happens, or secondarily, s.51, as presently written, takes the electors
appointed pursuant to the 23rd amendment out of the electoral count that, ultimately, names the president. that's an amendment that it makes statutorily. that's enough to prevent the situation where those electors distort the outcome of a presidential election, even if the 23rd amendment is still on the books. um, if the congress wanted to do other things to make even more sure that there would be no problem under the 23rd amendment. congress has many options. the congress is in charge of legislation enabling/implementing the 23rd amendment. so, for example, congress could provide, by statute, exercising that constitutional power, that if there are electors named for the seat of government, that they will be legally instructed to vote for the candidate that would get the most electoral
votes, anyway. that wouldn't be hard to do and it would have the effect of making sure that it -- those electors don't affect the electoral vote. or congress could, if it wanted to, decide that it would instruct those electors to vote for the winner of the national-popular vote. and if necessary, you could specify what shall constitute the winner of the national-popular vote. it could even, in a symbolic measure, if it wanted to make the admission of d.c. into a further moment of affirming our connection to the framing of the constitution. it could even direct those electors to -- to vote for president for george washington virginia and for vice president for john adams of massachusetts. that would not distort our current elections, at all. again, the best thing is simply for the 23rd amendment to be repealed. but any of these solutions would do.
and the concern that we can't find a solution for something, for which there are many, good solutions. is this sort of thing that gets articulated, well, we don't want to find a solution. there are lots of easy solutions here and s.51, already, has one of them. >> mr. -- mr. chairman, thank you. thank you. i want to thank, again, the -- the panel. the mayor. everyone. all the witnesses, on both sides. and senator liebermann, as -- as well. mayor morial. i opened my statement by quoting, earlier today, mr. chairman, the words of mark twain. and i want to close with the words, if i could, of thomas jefferson. and jefferson once said words to this effect. he said if the people know the truth, they won't make a mistake. if the people know the truth, they won't make a mistake. and our intent, in this hearing today, is to better ensure that people know the truth. most people have no -- and it's going to be probably, if you ask them, they don't realize that the district of columbia has more people living in it than a
number of states. most people in this country, probably, don't realize that the per-capita income on a per-capita basis, the federal income taxes paid by the residents of the district of columbia are greater than any other state. most people don't realize doesn't have the authority -- the washington national guard. there are any number of things people just don't realize. my guess, the framers, when they were writing the constitution, never would have imagined that the district of columbia would have this many people and to pay this much in taxes. but yet, not have the opportunity to have representation or vote in the house or in the senate. this is a wrong that needs to be righted. and my hope is with the information -- some of the information -- the knowledge that we are gaining from this -- this hearing and -- and others, going forward, that we'll make, at the end of the day, we'll do the right thing. and i -- i close by -- with the words of not an american but great british parliamentarian.
he said these words. a hundred, gosh, 50 years ago. he said you may choose to look the other way but you can never, again, say you did not know. >> right. >> we want to make sure people -- we want to make sure the people of this country know and know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. thank you mr. -- thank you, mr. chairman. again, for our witnesses. much obliged. >> thank you, senator carper. well, in closing out this hearing, i want to, first, thank congresswoman norton for your opening, for your incredible leadership over the -- the years. and for passing significant legislation out of the house that we are, now, in -- in the process of looking at here in the u.s. senate. also, want to thank senator liebermann for his leadership on the issues over the years, as well. and i want to thank each of our distinguished witnesses. this has been a great panel. it, certainly, has provided perspective on this, in my mind, this fundamental civil-rights issue.
that we discussed here today. i think the committee heard very compelling testimony on why washington, d.c. should be admitted to the union, as the 51st state. in my mind, this shouldn't be viewed asst state. in my mind this shouldn't be viewed as a partisan issue in any way. this is about ensuring more than 700,000 american citizens who call washington, d.c. home have an equal voice in this great democratic republic of ours. for far too long these americans have been denied our nation's most critical founding principle, the right to equal representation in government. we heard convincing testimony today that there are no constitutional obstacles to admitting washington, d.c. as a state, and the importance of passing senator carper's legislation here in the senate would right this long-standing wrong in our nation's history. once again i appreciate your speakers. i appreciate your witnesses for
their input on this important issue. the record for this hearing will remain open for 15 days until july 7th at 5:00 p.m. for the submission of statements and questions for the record. and with that, this hearing -- >> mr. chairman, can i just say one last sentence? a word of thanks to d.c.'s senators for their input in this hearing. >> very good. with those final words this hearing is now adjourned.
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