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tv   DC Mayor Others Testify on Statehood  CSPAN  July 24, 2021 2:33am-5:16am EDT

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house, and former senator joe lieberman. >> the committee will come to order. senator tom carper will make the district bill of columbia our nations 51st state. i would like to extend a warm welcome to washington, d.c.'s delegate to the house of u.s. representatives, congresswoman
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eleanor holmes norton and former senator and former chairman of this committee, joe lieberman. i appreciate your attendance here today and i just want to recognize your incredible leadership on this issue over many years. it's wonderful to have you here before the committee. for decades, you both have served us strong advocates in the conversation to give d.c. residents an equal voice. and for the first time in nearly seven years, this committee will continue that discussion in here from the mayor, policy, legal and civil rights experts on how those lawmakers can finally, finally give d.c. residents the same representation in congress as their fellow americans. the lack of representation for the residents of the cities, which serves as a beacon of freedom and democracy around the world, is a stunning
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contradiction. since 70 -- 1791 president washington signed into law the permanent governance act, dede -- d.c. is our nations capital. it has more than 700,000 residents, many of whom have fought in our wars, paid federal taxes, and served the american people as public servants, 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 lead of our colleagues in the house and pass the 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 power was derived directly from the people. it is why we elect leaders to represent us in congress, and
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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 a permanent seat of government as a side along the potomac river, they could never have imagined it would be, a large, vibrant and diverse city with more than 700,000 americans. a number of questions raised about this here today may be heard, i encourage all of my colleagues to be focused on the course of a rights issue that we have an opportunity to address. i look forward to hearing from our witnesses and having a productive discussion today in making the district of columbia our nations 51st state, and with that i turn it over to ranking member portman. >> thank you, chairman peters. and thank you to our witnesses. we have a distinguished group.
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today, including elinor holmes norton. in senator joe lieberman, who is back to this committee having served as chair and ranking member, and really was the heart and soul of this committee when he was here. we will also hear from mayor bowser. as you know, mr. chairman, i have practical and constitutional concerns about making washington, d.c. its own state. legally, congress does not have the power to override the constitution. that is the most important issue here. d.c. is the only place specifically traded by the constitution in article one as this seat of government. meaning it has a special constitutional status, completely different from any current or previous u.s. territory that it actually became a state to the article four admissions clause. a limited government on which congress can grant to it.
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neither the district because of her admission clause provides congress with the power to transform the seat of government into a state. moreover, d.c. has special constitutional status that grants d.c. residents three electoral votes in presidential elections. we cannot just legislate over these constitutional provisions. further, when maryland authorized the session of nearly 60 miles of its territory to the federal government, it did so for the purpose that congress may accept this land for the seat of government. when congress formally accepted the role by legislative act in 1790, we explained that the land was accepted for the permanent seat of the government of the united states. marilyn gave up this land and we accepted it so that we could create an independent federal governmental district, making d.c. into a separate state violates its own compact remade
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over 200 years ago with maryland. and we would be trading a state that comprises of less than 6% of the next smallest day, rhode island. a better option, in my view, would be to retro a large purse -- portion of the district to maryland. it's a perfect way to provide d.c. residents with voting representation in both chambers of congress. this issue has come up before to ratify the d.c. voting rights amendment in the 1970's which granted representation in both houses of congress and revealed -- repealed the 23rd amendment. only 16 states ratified it. 22 states short of the required two thirds for adoption. surveys today would demonstrate that the american people are still not interested in eliminating their capital district. again, i appreciate the witness is coming today and i look forward to hearing their testimony. >> thank you ranking member portman. before return over to our
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distinguished guest and panel, i want to give the lead sponsor of the washington, d.c. and mission , senator tom carper, an opportunity to address the committee. >> colleagues, i appreciate this opportunity. let me welcome back joe lieberman. it's great to welcome you back to your home and for your years of leadership. great to see you both. thank you for joining us and for your leadership. when he left the facility he handed off a piece of legislation to me. this is the piece of legislation before us today. 's when summer ends and school resumes this fall, millions of american schoolchildren will begin each day by repeating these words. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america. and to the republic, for which it stands, one nation, under
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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 to treat other people the way we want to be treated. the more than 700,000 citizens of the district of columbia are our neighbors. they deserve to be treated as such by the rest of us in this country. a port -- they pay more on a per capita basis than any other 50
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states, yet they have no vote in the u.s. house of representatives or the senate. they serve in the army, navy, air force, room -- marine corps, national guard, yet they have novo 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, but we learned that the elected leader of the district of columbia had no such authority. the district of columbia has earned a double credit rating, higher than most other states, yet the congress has to approve with the districts budget. some of the finest judges serve on d.c. courts, but the congress has to approve each one of them. and when the federal budget shuts down because of a budget impasse, it creates turmoil, budget turmoil for the district of columbia. the congress fails to vote for qualified judges for weeks,
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months and years, justice is delayed and sometimes justice is denied. 245 years ago 13 colonies took on the mightiest nation on earth , england, because of unjust treatment. they found calling the requirement to pay taxes without representation. taxation without representation became the rallying cry that 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, and we can start doing that by enacting legislation 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 means constitutional muster, it puts the district of columbia on the same path followed by all 37 states since 1791.
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to paraphrase mark twain, when in doubt, do what's right. you will amaze your friends. let's do what's right. we start by treating our neighbors here in the district of columbia the way we want to be treated. by the way, i will give you another quote that may come a. here is another quote. -- come as a surprise. here is another quote. they were denied a single representative and is a historic wrong and injustice -- and justice demands 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 for your leadership on this issue over many years. before i introduce our witnesses , i want to give two very
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important guests an opportunity to provide remarks. first is congresswoman eleanor holmes norton, the delegate to the united states house of representatives from the district of columbia. the congresswoman has, without question, been the leading voice in this fight for statehood as 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 -- 15 term 10 year and the congress. she led the passage of the washington, d.c. admission act to the congress earlier this year. welcome congresswoman, again, thank you for your tireless leadership on this issue. and i speak to the entire -- for the entire committee, we look forward to hearing your remarks. microphone.
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>> is it on now? 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 cosponsor for holding this hearing, and for being an original cosponsor of the district of columbia 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 passed the
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statehood bill. in 1993, when i first came to the house of representatives, i got the first ever houseboat 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.
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statehood bill as 45 senate cosponsors, which is the greatest number of senate cosponsors of the bill in the nation's history. president biden strongly supports d.c. statehood, our bill and is the first president to put the full weight of the presidency behind the bill in the nation's history. 54% and growing. 54% of the american people, more than half, 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
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our bill. the country was founded on the principles of no taxation without representation and consent of the governed. 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 president -- present day 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
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and the 23rd amendment. those who believe the bill is constitutional need only rely on the plain text of the constitution. a group of distinguished scholars from america's top law schools have -- a definitive analysis on the bill's constitutionality to the house and senate leadership. you already have that, i don't believe to needed asked -- i don't believe i need to ask it admitted to the record. the admissions clause -- the authority to admit new states. all 37 new states were admitted by congress by majority vote. no state was admitted by constitutional amendment and no state would have the consent of the admission of the state of washington, d.c. the district clause gives
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congress 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 location of the federal district. congress reduced the size of the federal district 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 from the 23rd amendment, and the 23rd amendment itself would be repealed.
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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 capita, and i will repeat that one. the residence 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 congress for all of its 220 years of
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existence, since the moment this became the capital of the united states. congress has 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 treats them, in the words of frederick telex -- frederick douglass as, "aliens. not citizens, but subjects." or it can live up to our nation's founding principles and
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pass our d.c. stated 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. thank you again. sen. peters: thank you for your statement and 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 ranking member of this very committee. in 2012 he helped author the new columbia admissions act, the first d.c. statehood bill to be enacted in the senate and nearly 20 years. you may proceed with your
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statement. mr. lieberman thank you -- >> thank you for convening this hearing today and for giving me the honor of testifying. delegate norton, mayor bowser, distinguish witnesses, it is a pleasure to be with you. as senator carper alluded to, a few years ago, delegate norton and i were in law school together. we have not aged at all and's then. [laughter] mr. lieberman: i will point out that the -- we were luckily -- we were lucky to go to yell where the mask up was a bulldog. i don't think anyone would argue with that norton, on this issue, has had the tenacity of the bulldog. especially the bar, and if necessary the bite. it is always good to be on her side. a special thank you, talking about, for introducing -- senator carper, for introducing
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this which would like to wrong -- would right a wrong that has been done for too long. i am honored, 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. fred thompson of tennessee, then susan collins of maine. i hope that the spirit of bipartisanship, which has been part of this committee's history
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and has been exemplified already by chairman peters and ranking member portman would provide the consideration of voting representation in congress for citizens of our capital city. as far as anyone can tell, the only citizens of any capital of any country in the world who were disenfranchised in this way. that's true artist and tries -- i first introduce legislations on the subject in it was called 2002. the no taxation without representation act and was favored by the committee but was not acted on by the senate. in 2009, a group of us
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introduced the d.c. house voting rights act, which was favorably reported by this committee and passed by the senate and a vote of 61-37. unfortunately, the senate added an amendment that repealed d.c.'s gun control laws. therefore, the house never acted. in 2012, 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 cosponsors for this legislation. it is a tribute to the cause and his tenacity and advocacy. when the senator asked me if i would get involved in supporting
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the proposal i immediately said yes. the truth is i was very grateful to tom for giving me the opportunity to reengage in this cause that has meant a lot to me for a long time. that has mattered to me because there are two great american 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 government should govern only with the consent of the governed. not by the whim of the crown or any other leader, particularly not a dictator. in a great democracy, a republic
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like ours, that consent is given by the votes of the citizenry. the second, as has been mentioned, a great founding principle is that citizens should not and cannot be taxed without representation in the legislative body that taxes them. here i quote justice hugo black wrote in westberry versus sanders, 1964, 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. today's residents of the district of columbia have every right to sound the battle cry of our revolution, no taxation without representation.
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greater per capita income tax paid, and more in total than the residents and citizens of 21 other states. so, why would anyone not want to eliminate these grossly outdated, un-american inequities? today, you will hear arguments why from the witnesses. i have heard the arguments before many times over the years. i suppose i have reached a decision. all of the arguments to me seemed to be legalistic disputations. and ultimately, excuses for something that is inexcusable. the arguments against this legislation do not come near to overcoming the great principled
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constitutional arguments for it. what's the problem? the media suggests 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 citizen's race, gender, sexual orientation.
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besides, it is just not sensible to base one's vote on 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 temporary. who among us can really predict how the citizens of the state of washington, d.c. will vote in elections for their representatives in congress in 50 years? 20 years? five years? who would have predicted five years ago that the state of georgia would elect two democratic senators to this congress? who could have addicted 50 years -- have predicted 50 years ago that there would be almost no
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republicans from new england and the senate today and almost no democrats from the house? obviously why we were so surprised with 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 the union since the original 13. 37 times these anxieties were overcome to enable us to become the united states of america. here is 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
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how the citizens of those states would vote. they were essentially both admitted together because they were expected to balance each other politically. alaska was expected to vote emma craddick, hawaii -- vote democratic, and hawaii was expected to vote republican. that was the consensus in 1959. in my 24 years in the senate, the opposite is the case. hawaii elect democrats and alaska has elected republicans. so much for deciding great constitutional issues such as this because of passing political prognostications. it is not only weak basis for judgment, it is unacceptable in our system of law and equity. many times in my 24 years on
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this committee, our members were able to find bipartisan solutions to difficult problems, then to convince the senate to agree with those solutions and together we ought some great things done for our country, i am proud to say. i hope you members of the committee 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 much. sen. peters: thank you for your perspective on this issue. i would now like to invite our
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witnesses up their chairs and ticket settled. as we are making those changes, as the witnesses come to their seats, i would also like to welcome our esteemed guests to stay for the remainder of the hearing if their schedules allow. i hope my colleagues will pause and reflect on the remarks of representative norton and mr. lieberman. with their depth of knowledge and experience working to provide d.c. residents with an equal voice in our democratic process, they have set the tone for today's historic hearing. today's hearing is not about political posturing. it shouldn't be predicated on predetermined views. it is simply about providing full and equal democratic rights.
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president eisenhower said it best in his 1954 state of the union address. "in the district of columbia, the time is overdue for granting national suffrage for its citizens and also applying the principle of local self-government to the nation's capital." 67 years later, those words still ring true. throughout our nation, my constituents and the constituents of everyone on this committee deserve a complete voice in government. it is long past time for the senate to pass this act. now that the witnesses have been settled, i would like each witness to know that as a practice of my death -- of this committee -- if you will rise and raise your right hand. we have witnesses on video, if you would do the same. do you swear that the testimony you will give before this
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committee will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you god? >> i do. sen. peters: you may be seated. our first witnesses mayor mario -- muriel bowser, the eighth mayor of the district of columbia. in her role, ms. bowser serves as chief executive and functions as its governor, county executive and mayor you have had a lot on your plate. it is wonderful to suture before -- to see you here before the committee today and you may proceed with your opening statement. mayor bowser: thank you mr. chairman. chairman peters, ranking member portman, members of this esteemed committee, thank you for convening this hearing on the washington, d.c. admissions act, which provides the 700,000 residents of washington, d.c.
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full democracy. i am murray all bowser, mayor of washington, d.c. and i am honored to become -- honor to come before this committee with the spore request. we ask you to write the wrongs that occurred some 220 years ago when the residents of the district 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. admissions act twice. 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 a time for the u.s. senate to support the d.c. petition for statehood. my testimony today echoes the many arguments i made before the house committee on oversight and reform in march.
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and september of 2019. some 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 drowned out by arguments that ignore the fact that the second-class status of d.c. residents is clearly an anomaly of the u.s. constitution, not a feature of it. over the decades, arguments against statehood have ranged from assertions that are frankly preposterous, to inaccurate legal claims. 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 was confronted with
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concerns that the district could not be a state because it was believed we did not have a car dealership. we do. statements like these do not only discount the civil rights of d.c. residents, they 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 people, the neighborhood of michigan park where i was born, congress part -- park, columbia heights, hillcrest, 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 appeared today to represent them. there is no legal or constitutional barrier to d.c.
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stated. the prevailing 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, 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 it is fully within congress' power under the constitution to make d.c. a state. the constitution's admissions clause grants congress the authority to admit seats into
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the union, including washington, d.c. following the 13 colonies, all 37 states were admitted by congress through this constitutional authority. states were added -- not added solely because of a particular industry or the size of its landmass. 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, maximum size of 10 square miles, not a minimum. s-51 retains a federal district, as required by the constitution. it encompasses the unpopulated areas the federal presence, including all of the house and senate office buildings, the capitol itself, the supreme court or the white house, the
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monuments and museums on the national mall, and all other federal buildings and land. the people of america, when they come to the nation's capital, will still find all of the great monuments and museums that will make up their experience, and of course the free museums of the smithsonian institution. the 23rd amendment to the constitution which granted d.c. residents of 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 it includes expedited procedures for consideration of the repeal of the unnecessary constitutional amendment. thus virtually ensuring quick and certain ratification by the states to ensure no ambiguity about the electoral votes. s-51 outlines a clear path forward on how to address the
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23rd admission. it is contradictory that the 23rd amendment, which was passed to expand democracy, is now being held up as the main barrier to further expanding constitutional rights in the district. this flies in the face of the amendment's intent. retro session to maryland is also not required, nor is it addressed. maryland has no claim to the landed seated when the district was founded. certainly nobody in this body would suggest main secede to massachusetts. the founding fathers, failing to address the contradiction that residents of capital or second-class citizens.
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with no constitutional underpinnings, the disenfranchised try dijsselbloem -- the this -- disenfranchisement of citizens is the voting right issue of our time. we are the only capital in the world's democracies without voting rights in the national legislature. within two weeks, the country will celebrate its independence day on the establishment as the u.s. get the 700,000 predominantly black and brown residents of washington, d.c. have a to pay taxes without representation for over 200 years. i appealed to the center to end -- to the senate to end the
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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 nations all over the world. we are washingtonians who serve proudly in our military and fight for our country. we are 30,000 veterans. we are washingtonians. we have served on the front line as central workers during the pandemic. doctors, nurses, firefighters, schoolteachers, yet we have no say in the senate. we heroically defended our nation's capitol during the january 6 insurrection by answering the call to support our federal partners, despite not having representation in the senate. we are washingtonians.
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we don't have any say when this senate considers presidential nominations, supreme court justices, and large investments like the cares act or the american jobs plan. i ask you today to treat d.c. residents the same as all taxpaying 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 wrong? by what authority with this body continue to have washingtonians pay federal taxes? today i am asking united states senators usher in a new age of fairness and equality for d.c. residents. one thing i know about d.c., they have been fighting for this for 220 years.
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we will not quit until we achieve full democracy. our two senators seated here with you. d.c. residents are not standing alone. over the years, we have garnered the support of americans from all stripes. the bipartisan u.s. conference of mayors, representing millions of americans in big cities to small towns. the nonpartisan league of women voters, who for 100 years have taught to defend our tomorrow c. -- our democracy. the naacp and the leadership conference on civil and human rights, who recognizes 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 may explain why partisan considerations have absolutely nothing to do with the quest of d.c. citizens for full democracy, and absolutely no place in assuring s-51 moves
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forward. together with leaders across america, we will keep pushing until d.c.'s tragic disenfranchisement is recognized. you have the power to make two things happened that i see so clearly in my mind's eye and feel deeply in my heart and soul. with your courageous leadership and clear i'd focus on fairness, today this congress, you will vote to admit d.c. into our great american union. secondly, i will be the last scene mayor who needs to sit here -- the last d.c. mayor who needs to sit here demanding what is our birthright and what is owed to us as taxpayers, and that is full citizenship and
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democracy. thank you mr. chairman, thank you senators. sen. peters: -- sen. peters: thank you for your statement. our next witness is the president and ceo of the national urban league. he previously served as mayor of new orleans, louisiana. louisiana state senator. president of the u.s. conference of mayors. welcome. >> chairman peters, ranking member portman, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify on the washington, d.c. admissions act. as chairman peters indicated, i am president and ceo of the national urban league. in addition to serving as mayor of new orleans, i am also a former senate staffer. having served with russell belong of louisiana in the 1980's.
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i am also proud to say that congresswoman norton taught me both civil-rights and constitutional law when it was a student at georgetown university law center, and a resident of the district of columbia from 1980 to 1983. i think her and mayor bowser for -- i thank her and mayor bowser for their testimony on leadership on this issue. we, the national urban league, were founded in 1910. we serve the district of columbia through both the greater washington 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 fed to pass this legislation to remedy the
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disenfranchisement of nearly 700,000 americans. throughout my career as a voting rights activists, 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. from 2006-2010, i served on the d.c. statehood commission where we pushed for d.c. statehood and statutory representation. despite the progress we have made in our 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.
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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 impact d.c. residents during the covid-19 pandemic. d.c. residents were in dire need of a relief afforded by the cares act, however they did not have congressional representation that could offer amendments to, or vote on the final bill. d.c. was originally denied 750 $5 million in critical funding needed to provide direct relief towards millions -- to its residents. last summer, d.c. took to the
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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 the violent attack on the u.s. capitol on january 6 until much of the damage had already been done. in both cases, d.c. officials were absolutely -- to respond critically against what was happening the district does not have critical safety mechanisms that statehood provides. d.c. residents are not able to hold elect representatives accountable for these harms. d.c. elected congressional representatives to vote to
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establish the independent january 6 commission to investigate the attack on the u.s. capitol, or the george floyd justice in policing act which would put in place critical policing reforms. we are at a unique juncture in american history. we can create laws that reflect our democratic values and principles and ensure that the fundamental right to vote, which is a 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. admissions act in the senate. i applaud all of the testimony herein. this is an injustice.
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this is a denial of voting rights. this is something that should be remedied now. i urge this committee to stand up for american values and democratic into pools and pass the d.c. statehood bill. thank you so much. sen. peters: thank you for your statement. our next witness is richard primus, professor of law at the university of michigan law school. go blue. professor primus is an expert in congressional law and is the recipient of the first guggenheim fellow ship studies with this work in the relationship between constitutional interpretation. he also clerked for ruth kidder -- ruth bader ginsburg. you may proceed.
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>> members of the committee, my name is richard primus. i am the collegiate professor at the university of michigan law school. i am honored by your request to participate in these proceedings. chairman peters is my senator, and -- [indiscernible] the constitutionality is straightforward. the admissions clause of article four section three empowers congress to admit new states subject only to the limitation that congress cannot -- reconfigure existing states. this would not reconfigure any condition to -- >> some say that this admission would require a constitutional
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amendment, but the constitution does not say that. the constitution gives power to admit new states the congress. still, some americans have the intuition that something would be constitutionally remiss about making washington, d.c. into a state. that intuition, which people do on a good-faith basis, is based on our knowledge that the founding generation did not intend washington, d.c. to be a state. which is true, they didn't -- but that generation also did not intend to create a situation in which 700,000 americans would not have representation in congress. the founders, no principal was more central to the constitution then representative government.
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at their time, there was no conflict between that principal and -- because virtually nobody lived in washington dc. today, there is a conflict. the number of registered voters in d.c. today is larger than the entire number of voters who participated in the elections and conventions that ratified the constitution in all 13 original states put together. any constitutional vision that takes representative government seriously, that is a serious problem. given the importance of the founders attached to representative government, it would be strange to conclude that their vision requires us to maintain this situation in which so many lack representation. the constitution gives congress the tool for solving the problem.
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that tool is 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, it helps fulfill -- before i close come i should say a word about the ideas expressed in the written testimony of two with this is. professor derek mueller and dr. roger -- professor mueller cautions that s-51 could cause confusion given the 23rd amendment. i agree with professor mueller 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 the professor derek mueller and dr. roger p long.
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professor mueller cautions that s.51 can cause confusion at the next presidential election given the 23rd amendment. i agree with professor mueller that the best solution is to repeal the 23rd amendment in the second best solution is for congress to ensure by statute that the seat of government doesn't point -- appointed rogue collectors s.51 could accomplish the latter solution by removing any electors appointed from the seat of government to the electoral count. in my written testimony i have offered testimony for what congress can do to improve on that solution.
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professor mueller reads the statutes differently, but the key point is this. we agree that even if his reading were correct, s.51 would be constitutional and congress could solve any problems arising. -- nothing about the 23rd amendment makes s.51 unconstitutional. the idea is that marilyn gave what is now washington, d.c. to the united states to be used as the seat of government. not so one day it could be its home. in my own view, this is the strongest of the arguments and ranking member portman picked up on it in his coping remarks. there's a difference between giving a gift for a reason and giving a gift by condition and happy to discuss this further if it's helpful. if marilyn had ceded lands to the united states and specified that it was valid only so long as the land were used in a certain way, there might be a
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problem with s.51. but maryland specified no such condition. washington, d.c. belongs to the united states. maryland has no greater claim on it than the rest of america does. >> our next witness is vice president for legal affairs at the chair of constitutional studies at the cato institute. he is a policy scholar at the cato institute and is the chair of the constitutional studies program. welcome, please proceed with your opening statement. >> thank you for inviting me to testify. s.51 raises constitutional problems. to summarize my written statement here -- [inaudible]
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-- there is a strong presumption by now against the those radical change. [inaudible] the framers certainly didn't intend anything like this. maryland ceded 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.
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contrary to the bill proponents, article four alone requires marilyn's consent -- maryland's consent. 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 the state either be dependent or excessively influential on the federal government. this bill fails on each of those counts. finally and most important, the 23rd amendment granting the district three electoral college votes would need to be repealed because there will still be residents in this tiny enclave including the first family. and they will 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
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this. there bill provides for expedited procedures for repealing the 23rd amendment. but that's a long shot given the ratification hurdles. so the bill also provides for repealing the statute that enables residents to vote. that would extinguish the residence right to vote of course. so there's a problem here. not even the 39 scholars who wrote to congress recently to support this bill are able to agree about how to resolve it. one camp reads the 23rd of an has self enforcing and therefore as mandating the appointment of electors. the other reads it as requiring enabling legislation. without that, there is no way for the residents to vote. even if the self enforcement camp prevailed and the district had to appoint electors in such manners, both camps claim that congress could replace the current law.
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that law orders electors to vote in accordance with the district's popular vote. the scholars believe that 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, but the way it does it is perfectly consistent with the whole point of the 23rd amendment. namely to enable 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 amount
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to nothing. yet that's precisely what the scholars examples come to. 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 voters would affectively 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 attorney general's have promised it's going to face. >> our final witness is derek mueller, a professor of law at the university of iowa college
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of law. he focuses on election law, federal courts, civil procedure, administrative law and evidence. his research concert -- concentrates on the role of states. i'll come the committee. you may proceed with your comments. >> i appreciate the kind invitation to testify here today. i'm a professor of law at the university of iowa college of law. i teach election law and federal courts. i'm here to talk about four points on voting issues related to the district. these are practical problems related to s.51 as it presently exists. the 23rd minute guarantees that the new district would have three electoral votes no matter how few were -- few people reside in it. under s.51, the new seat of government would be known as capital and capital would be entitled to three electoral votes. the boundaries of capital roughly match onto a census tract. that had already three
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inhabitants. a tiny group of prospective voters potentially including the president and family who happen to reside here now have three electoral votes. s.51 does not adequately address the 23rd movement and related voting issues. there is no guarantee of repeal of the 23rd amended. the bill simply hopes it will happen. if there is a legal controversy about whether the district could become a state, everyone has an incentive to wait and see the legal process play out. if statehood as unconstitutional as found by a court, i assume district residents would prefer to retain the 23rd amendment rather than see it repealed. amending the constitution has been done once in the last 50 years. we should not simply wish for future events to occur. section 223 of the act is entitled repeal of law providing
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for participation of seat of government and election of president and vice president. in my judgment this does not repeal the law which is currently codified in the d.c. code and would continue to be enforced after s.51 was enacted instead hey provision enacted to clarify the electoral count act about the timing, transmission and counting of electoral votes. not the district's participation in the election. it compels states to permit absent capital voters who were previously domiciled in another state to request absentee ballots for federal elections. but states have the broad power of the qualifications of their voters including reasonable citizenship, age and residency requirements. congress's power to date tape residency requirements is deeply contested.
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a related provision and federal law that entitles tens of thousands of voters overseas to the ballot may be in peril. voters for the district of columbia should be conditioned on repeal of the 23rd amendment. if the bulk of the present district of columbia comes a state or is retro seated, the 23rd amendment would simply cease to apply. none of these solutions i described are present in s.51. they are the stuff of conjecture at the moment. if congress decided not to appoint any electors at all, congress would be derelict in its duty. the supreme court has repeatedly noted that the word shall places a duty. the constitution provides, the
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district shall appoint electors. congress might enact a law awarding capitals electors to the winner of the electoral. but the 23rd amendment provides that the district shall appoint an congress may direct 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 the district has appointed anyone. selection must occur within a place, not outside of it. awarding capitals electors to the winner of the national -- national popular vote suffers. how does congress determine the popular vote. different candidates appeal on the ballot in different states. on some variation is inevitable, it certainly prevents -- presents significant practical
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problems. it does not weigh in on the merits or constitutionality of statehood, -- what might happen if it were enacted. it only addresses practical voting rights problems. these problems are serious and vexing. the present bill is inadequate to address. >> thank you for your testimony here today. as we sit here within a city outside these grounds that is populated over 700 thousand americans. we simply do not have equal representation on equal voice in this congress. 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
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committee how d.c. statehood furthers our democratic promise of equal representation and how ensuring d.c. is very diverse population has a voice in congress as part of the american civil rights movement? >> 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
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district of columbia a voice in many critical decisions. more and peace. -- war and peace. taxation. regulation. distribution of proceeds. it is just so basic. we fought as a nation in the 20th century to expand the right to vote. first two women with the passage -- first to women with the passage of the 19th amendment. to african-americans with the enactment of the voting rights act which made real the promise of the 14th and 15th of them. -- amendments. with the constitutional ban on poll taxes. in every single instance, this is one of the last pieces of that important shift in how we govern this nation.
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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, to vote on the floor of the house, to choose two members of the united states senate who have a say it all the important proceedings. i might add that federal judges and superior court judges are appointed by the president of the united states and ratified or consumed by -- confirmed by the senate with no voice by the residence of the district of columbia. the u.s. attorney for district court judge, appellate court judge or even the court that deals with the counterpart to state laws in the district of
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columbia, the superior court, no voice for the residence of the district of columbia. this is an injustice in all of the arguments. the legal arguments do not address the fundamental basic issues. this is a long battle whose time has come. it is time to enact this bill. , they pay full taxes without representation in congress. residents of washington dc pay
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$6.9 billion annually in federal income taxes. that is more than residence in over 20 states. it means d.c. residents pay more in federal income tax than residence and -- residents of any other state. is it fair that they are paying billions of dollars in taxes every year to the federal government and have no say in how those taxpayers or how the taxpayer money is being spent? >> it is unfair, mr. chairman, you laid it out perfectly. it is a question of fairness. it is a question of what we are entitled to as american citizens and taxpayers. we spent many years making sure that everybody recognizes that the residence of the district of
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columbia, we pay our own way. we run our own government. we are a state, city and county all at once. it is very important that a jurisdiction as well-run as ours and a jurisdiction that built its population, the tax base that has built a aaa bond rating out on wall street has full representation in the congress but also that we have full autonomy over our decisions. >> thank you, mayor for that response. i need to step out and be on the floor. i will now recognize senator johnson. he has yielded his time to you.
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senator johnson, you may proceed with your questions. senator johnson: we heard about an hour of testimony and the counter arguments that i found quite convincing. there are constitutional rights being violated. the constitution set of the district specifically. can you talk about what the founders had in mind and why they set the district apart from the type of stage we have in the rest of the country? >> i would be delighted to do
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so, senator johnson. the argument can be found in article 43 in which interdependency and the album it poses runs throughout the arrangements that were set forth to create separate district of columbia such that the federal government would not be seated in any one of the particular states. they had experience with that under the articles of confederation in 1783 when the continental congress was meeting in philadelphia at the time. they were confronted with a mob that sought to storm the constitutional hall and were forced to flee because the local government would not take
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measures to prevent that mob from doing so. that was clearly on their mind when they drafted the constitution's enclave because -- clause. that provides for 10 miles where, not 10 square miles. there is a difference. >> there is a difference in conflict between the central government and the states. i have a vested interest in a very powerful federal government. that is counter to the power vested in the state, that the states want to maintain their sovereign power. from my standpoint, we can talk about the constitutionality and how you deal with the 23rd amendment. this seems like a naked power grab.
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note he can predict how that district would vote. i think you can predict quite handily. he cited alaska and hawaii as examples of how people thought they would vote is completely flipped. i don't think hawaii or alaska had these types of voting histories. in 2020, 99.2% of d.c. votes went to the democrat candidate. 5.4% went to the republican candidate. in the last eight elections, no republican candidate has gotten more than 10% of the vote. that is over 28 years. i would argue that certainly has something to do with the vested interest of the people here in d.c.. there is poverty here.
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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 residence of the district of columbia that are 25 years or older have some kind of post or professional degree. this is an elite group of people here. they have a vested interest in the power of the federal government and i think that is one of the issues we need to address when we talk about whether or not we should grant statehood to the district of columbia. would you agree with that? >> i think it is a question of our presentation and a question of the issues that the members of this committee are debating. whether or not it should look like the present form, statehood
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or -- it is the kind of thing that should be considered. >> in the end, people choose to live here as well. i can't let this opportunity pass as long as you're testifying for committee. to just talk about what i consider the important constitutional issue which is the equal administration of justice. just a couple of questions in terms of how the district has handled people who write it in the summer versus people who reached the capital, i condemn both equally. have you determined, have you seen any information in terms of insurance claims, how much property damage was done? we know that those rights costed close to $2 billion in insurance claims. >> thank you for your interest
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in the district but i have to address your question first by talking about the residence 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 and other americans. >> that is not the question. could you answer the question i asked you? do you have a property damage estimate from the summer riots? >> i am glad to hear you say that you are opposed to riotous behavior, whether it happens on 16th street or here. >> could you answer the question, do you have an estimate of the property damage? >> i know that we had one night of rioting in the district. >> do you know how many people were arrested for the summer riots?
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>> we have had dozens of people arrested over the last year. >> how many are still being detained? >> i don't know the answer to that. >> do you know by using geo-location that we arrest people who participated in the summer arrives in their individual states like we did with the january very -- january 6 breachers? >> you have to address those questions to operations. i can speak for the metropolitan police department and we do not permit any riotous behavior, whoever is conducting it. we have made arrests in both cases. in cases where we had riotous behavior here on the congress's grounds and on city streets. >> i know the house of representative members have written a letter to you inquiring about the conditions
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in the d.c. jail where people are being held -- basically the entire population held in solitary confinement. when you respond to their letter, i would like you to send me the same response. >> you are aware that our criminal justice system is unique in the american system. our metropolitan police department makes arrests but all arrestees are processed through a federal system, through the courts who have federally appointed judges, a pretrial system that is federal as well. operate a d.c. jail and if there are any concerns about conditions at the jail, i will address them. >> i am just asking you to respond to me when you respond to the house members were asking about the conditions of solitary confinement. >> having control of our criminal justice system is a driving force behind why we need statehood.
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certainly we have talked about representation but being able to enforce our own laws is important to how we operate our jurisdiction. >> thank you, senator johnson. let me just note that the members of the committee will have the opportunity to rescind questions for the record. we appreciate your timely response. we think you all for joining us today to testify. i am going to ask if i can for dr. primus. i would like to reflect on what we have heard today from dr. pilon and mr. mueller. is there anything you heard from either of these witnesses? is there anything you would like to comment on? >> it is a privilege to work
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with both of them. there is something a little bit curious about that contention that we heard from professor mueller, that we should not count on the ability to appeal the 23rd amendment. this does not happen by itself. main members of the united states senate -- many numbers of the instant -- of the united states senate are committed to this. one of the supremacy is is that these are binding because if we don't like what what it means -- like what it means, we cannot just change it. the whole theory is based on the premise that the constitution
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can be amended. and they should take the view that the 23rd amendment could not be amended. it is very unrealistic to think that that would happen. this is essentially to say that the theory of originalism started with justice scalia. that is wrong. that is not something that everybody in the u.s. senate wants to endorse. i should also say something to dr. peons point. -- pelon's point. >> i was just listening to something my colleague, senator johnson said. >> very briefly, the doctor says
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the best way to solve the complications rising from the 23rd amendment -- it is true that this is the best way to solve it. there are many possible solutions. there are many adequate solutions. i was wondering if the committee wanted to speak about certain details and why the problems are not solvable. >> thank you very much. as you mentioned in your testimony, some people believe that the district of columbia can only become estate through constitutional amendment.
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as well as nearly 40 constitutional experts who recently signed a letter of support who believe otherwise. i am going to ask you a series of brief questions if you don't mind. the first of those is how many of this 30 -- of the 37 states were admitted to the union after the original 13 colonies by constitutional amendment? >> none. >> diderot congress -- did the congress require a to shrink the capital? >> 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 is the plaintext. there is no minimum size. it is left to the judgment of the province. >> can you speak briefly as to
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why constitutional amendment is not required nor the norm? can you speak briefly as to why constitutional amendment is not required nor the norm when entering estate into the unions and how the constitution grants congress to make statehood. >> this is just the text of the constitution. constitution article four section three said that congress can admit new states into the union. like every other power given to congress by the constitution unless specifically specified otherwise, that power is compassed by congressional action and then presented to the president. in a small number of cases where something has to be done differently, the constitution specifies it has to be done
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differently. 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. this is something that congress can do all by itself. that is just the text of the constitution. to say that it has to be done in some other way is to say something the constitution does not say. one other thing. the session -- the suggestion that they need permission, it is true that maryland gave the land to the united states to be used by the district.
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suppose you wanted to bike to work instead of drive and i said i have an extra bike, here. if 10 years later you want to say that you want to do it with something else like ride a bike or give it to your kid, you need -- you don't need to come back and ask me, i give you the bike. i did not say that if you do something other than that with it, you have to give it back to me. that is the position that we are in. >> thank you for that response. i am pleased to recognize senator langford. senator langford: thank you, i know that you have been engaged in this dialog for a very long time. you also note that my predecessor, senator coburn, when he came to this hearing,
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sat down and said this is a waste of time and walked out -- >> a man of few words. >> i know that you all had multiple conversations on things you did not agree on. this is something that -- >> we had a great friendship, he was a good talker and i was a good listener. >> i appreciate the dialogue on this and to be able to go through it. this has been a point of conversation for many people for a long time to be able to talk about this. i want to begin with a larger question on this, that is the issue of retrospection. we walked through this area before as a nation, that the southern portion of the district of columbia retro seated back to genia back in 1846. everyone on the panel has discussed this. what is the barrier to refer session with maryland today? >> thank you you, senator langford.
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that issue with respect to the retro session of genia in 1846 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. many people have questioned whether that retro session was legitimate, including no less than president lincoln and president taft and others. it remains an open question. >> what is the way that would have to be resolved? >> the court would have to speak to it, first of all. >> you would have to find someone with standing. quite the standing issue would come up. with respect to retro session to
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maryland which is what your opening question was about, you would need the consent of maryland to do that. if i may respond to a point, the grade of land from maryland to the district was made pursuant to article one, the enclave clause for the specific purpose of creating a seat for the new government. he uses the hypothetical, i will use a hypothetical. suppose that immediately upon receiving that land, the federal government turned around and created an estate rather than the seat of the new government, everybody would agree that was she a political mischief -- sheer political mischief.
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if that is the case, what difference does it make whether they did it immediately or in the remaining 200 years? the principal remains the same. they did not use it for the purpose for which the grant -- land was granted but to do something different. that raises serious problems in and of itself. in order for the federal government, congress to make a state out of the district, you would need the consent of maryland to do that under article four. it seems that consent will still be needed, even though it is more than 200 years later. >> again, none of this is new in this dialogue. robert kennedy wrote that while congress's power is a continuing
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power, the power to create the district contemplates a single act. the constitution makes no provision for revocation and the act of acceptance or for retrospection. ed neese, a couple of decades later as our attorney general wrote the district chosen would not exceed 10 miles square. once the session was made and the district became the seat of government, this seems to have been exhausted. the constitution appears to leave congress no authority to redefine the district's boundaries. constitutional scholars, even in this conversation have disagreed with that. what are your thoughts? >> attorney general kennedy was absolutely right. the creation of the district was a single act, it was completed, it was done.
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now you have to look to where congress might have other authority to turn that district into something like an estate. the other side points to article four. the problem is that the district is generous, it is unique. this is not the normal creation of a state process as if you were doing it under article four where the federal territories say the northwest territory, the louisiana purchase, land that was acquired in clear contemplation of new states being created for it. the district of columbia was not created with the consolation of a new state being created from it. >> good to see you again. let me ask you a couple of questions as well. were you surprised at the
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original design of the transition of leadership of whoever the mayor is? were they automatically become governor in that transition? at that point, district leadership would become state leadership. is that surprising to you in the structure of it? >> over several months, d.c. residents participated in how they want the state government to look. in that constitution, we expanded democracy by adding more state legislature. that is important. also, it converted the existing elected officials to -- it also counterpoints the election of the new state represented of and the federal officials. >> let me follow through on one
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more issue that is connected but not connected on this. washington, d.c. during the pandemic time had the most strict restrictions with the limitations of people of faith to be able to get indoors. there was a lot of pushback for that to happen. it was still a very strict non-allowance for people of faith to be able to meet. whether it was last easter or other times to be able to gather. you have to know that congress overwhelmingly passed in 1993 the religious freedom restoration act. during this time, --
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washington dc would no longer fall under the religious freedom restoration act. this is the direction that this seems to be headed for people of faith to be able to live out their faith. i have no belief that you're trying to limit people of faith in d.c. but it was odd to >> certainly. the covid restrictions were for everybody. i don't have to tell you that we faced the 100 year pandemic and i am very proud of d.c. residents and houses of worship who followed health guidance and allowed us to crush this virus. that is why i can sit here today
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with d.c. folly open -- fully open and i know that we saved lives by flattening the curve, keeping people out of the hospital in intensive care 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 where that some indoor spaces were more of a risk for transmission of the virus than others. unfortunately churches were among them. believe me, i've had this debate, i've had this debate with my own church. and we came to many compromises. it was always our intent to make sure that people of faith in 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.
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and we saw on 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. the compromises that we made were also good ones. >> it is an interesting balance to be able to walk through first amendment protections and pandemic protections. many churches left the district to be able to worship a few miles away where they could meet together indoors or outdoors. i understand as the mayor you make difficult calls. but there is a unique protection for people of faith. i apologize for going a bit long. >> it would be interesting to know, a number of members of our body here are people of deep faith.
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it would be interesting to know, worship services ebbs and flows over time and we are seeing some ebbing going on in most major faiths in this country today. i don't presume to believe anybody knows what this number would be -- to know what church attendance is like in the district as compared to some of our other states. it would be interesting to see what that looks like. i have a following question and i would ask the mayor if you could handle this. i never imagined as elected official and retired navy cap -- i never imagined serving in other capacities that i would end up leading the charge in the
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senate to fight on behalf of the residents of the 51st state. but that's where we find ourselves. we regularly see the negative effects of this on d.c. residents of not having a vote or voice in congress. we talked about that especially during a global pandemic as a district with 46% african-american population, that like other communities of color across the nation, african-americans have suffered disproportionately from the covid-19 pandemic. most of those infected in d.c. are people of color. about 75% of those who died here are african-american. i would ask, can you speak to the issue of inequality here and could i please ask you to speak to why the nearly 700,000 district residents, our fellow
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americans continue to be disproportionately impacted during the pandemic as a result of not being a state? >> thank you, senator. i think you are 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 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 people keeping our
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sanitation services going across america. so they were getting infected more. and because of centuries of disinvestment in our health, or also dying more. what was a tragedy that we didn't expect during all of this as we are 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 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 that through. but what that meant, for the for the first time no one could
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remember since, that we were treated in a formula with territories rather than being treated like a state which we are for hundreds of federal and hundreds of federal statutes. it just made clear to all of us how important it was what our practical operation as a state, county and city can only be codified and not reversed in any piece of legislation with statehood. >> thank you for that response. would you like to add to those words? >> i appreciate you raising this issue, a few important facts. the united states is approximately 14%
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african-american. district of columbia is some 46% to 50% african-american. the failure to provide federal voting rights for 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 as a part of the great migration
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transitioned to. they had no right to vote in alabama or georgia or south carolina or north carolina or virginia. 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, north carolina, virginia, louisiana gained the right to vote for members of the senate. the members of the district of columbia, black and beyond black residents were left out and left behind. mayor bowser identified the structural impact of this is that d.c. for many federal programs and initiatives is treated like a territory, which denies the residents of the district of columbia, including its black residents, equal treatment and therefore equal
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representation not only in voting but across the board. and that's a structural inequity that's 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 inpatient since 1965. have been patient as they sought to achieve and 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 that the residents of the district of columbia have been disenfranchised. this is something whose time has come and this is something that is of right. >> thank you. very insightful. we've been joined by senator rosen. i want to thank you for being a
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supportive of this legislation. >> thank you, senator. appreciate your work on this for many years. your chairmanship of this committee in the past. i would really like to thank mayor bowser, congresswoman holmes norton. everyone for being here and for the work that you've been doing, because we know there's a lot of contributions from our d.c. residents. i like to say every senator is the parent of an only child, the states we represent. and we are so incredibly proud of them. for me that means nevada and i couldn't be prouder of our great state. but we were not always a state. we began as a territory. a treaty with mexico in 1848 was when we were a territory. in the beginning, we didn't even
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have our name. we were part of the utah territory. it wasn't until october 31. 1864 amidst the civil war, just eight days before president lincoln's reelection that the battle point state came the 36th state in the union. i'm a proud cosponsor of s.51, the bill that provides statehood to d.c. and 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. 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 not just to this community, but to our country every day? >> thank you for sharing the
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nevada story. we do indeed look forward to telling the d.c. story and being admitted just like nevada was by simple legislation by this congress who has that full authority. when we think about d.c. residents, we are eight wards, 700,000 people. people who start businesses here and pay their taxes. they pay more taxes per capita than any other american. we pay more taxes than 20 states. we are a donor state to the federal government. sometimes people are mistaken and think that the federal government pays to operate the district of columbia. 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.
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unlike other mayors, we operate a school system, the corrections system, department of motor vehicles. in so many ways we already function as a state. >> you are the busiest mayor. and the most diverse mayor, as powell -- most diverse mayor, as well. while d.c. is often called out for and lots of newcomers, nevada has new residents as well and sometimes we are known to be the fastest state in the country.
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only 25% of nevada residents were born in nevada. >> we are diverse in ways people do not recognize. we are also growing with the recent census. among the fastest growing jurisdictions in the nation as well. let me talk about our economic diversity. frequently we are thought of as a federal government town. we are proud to be hosts to the
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tenant -- the federal government but their presence in d.c. has been decreasing over a couple of decades. federal jobs have been decreasing. federal workers have been decreasing and even the federal use of space has decreased. so we have been focused on how to diversify the economy and focus on technology and education. that is why the economy has been so robust. it was discussed earlier that we are in an elite place. speaking as the daughter of government workers who raised five kids and focused on family and faith in the city, i can tell you people work hard here. but we also have diversity of incomes and of views.
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so we are particularly well situated to be admitted as a state. with our population, we are larger than two states already and we rival five others. we are larger than most states when they were admitted to the union. so we are poised to be a great benefit to the union as the 51st state. >> thank you. i think you are a great benefit already. i appreciate your service and i yield my time. senator lankford: i want to ask you some questions to follow up on statements. you talked about the difference in this bill and the hr 51 bill
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and how they handle the amendment. this bill says we will pass it and declare d.c. as a state and then get around to the 23rd amendment. you flipped that in your earlier statement. -- can you go into this deeper? >> the bill can only do one thing, an article. until that happens, we have an enclave of around 59 people. some of it voters who would be eligible to choose three electors. so the thought is if we can push
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people and wait and see what happens, may be the 23rd amendment will be repealed. so there's no hard rule or guarantee. there is not a time limit. so it is waiting to see what will happen. so another way might be to say let's repeal the 23rd amendment or putting a condition on it that way we do not have residual problems. >> do you know of any issues trying to form that way? >> i think you could develop a constitutional amendment that
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would condition the repeal of the 23rd amendment. i mentioned concerns about how to handle the capital voters left. i think it is contested whether congress has that power. you could fashion amendments and think creatively on how to address the solution. >> either way there are constitutional issues to be resolved. the founders designed a capital region to never be a state. so that the federal government does not exist under any state. it was so there would always be a region established that the federal government did not have to worry about what was state
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and what was federal. the farther you go, the larger the constitutional questions get. many of them have not been addressed before. some were never resolved long-term. >> there are a number of unsettled issues that have been written about for decades. >> any individual who moves to d.c. understands washington dc is unique. you do not vote for a senator or house member. in the last hundred years we have had a delegate in the house but it has been well known that when you moved to d.c. you are moving to an area that does not have two senators and a house
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member. so looking at the transition, it is a given statement. oklahoma city is 10 times the size of washington dc but there are still individuals who want to live outside of oklahoma city . it's a choice they make. in an area 110 the size, people still -- 1/10 the size, people can work in washington dc and live in maryland, virginia, or west virginia. no one is compelled to be here, knowing the situation. >> the chair recognizes senator
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hawley. >> help me understand the history. my understand is the office of legal counsel has weighed in on this question a number of times. they have never said congress have the ability by statute to turn district of columbia into a state. >> correct. the only exception occurred during the obama administration when they gave a no go for this so he turned to the solicitor general's office, who said we can defend this. >> so the attorney general got
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the same answer they been getting for decades and decided he didn't like it and went to somebody else. but consistently that office charged with looking at these questions and providing nonpartisan legal counsel has consistently said there is no constitutional authority for congress to use a statute to turn d.c. into a state. robert kennedy rendered a lengthy opinion on this. tell us about the significance of his opinion when he said that the constitution doesn't give congress the power by statute to turn d.c. into a state.
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>> beyond the fact that he was a democrat, the dis--- the to sit -- the significant says that this is a single act and then the question becomes if congress has authority to do what is contemplated by these various proposals that have come over the years. the conclusion was that no they don't. it is a single act. if you want to do something more you have to find authority under the constitution and important issue here is that the district is unique. it's not an ordinary process of
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creating a new state from territories acquired like the louisiana purchase. it was created expressly under article one to be the seat of the federal government. under s 51, the seat of government would be this tiny enclave and i invite you to think in response to an earlier question what this would mean with the much reduced authority of congress to have exclusive jurisdiction over this tiny enclave. it means they are dependent on this new untested estate for everything.
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we can imagine how the framers did not want that and they did not want it expressly because of the experience they had in 1783 when congress was attacked by a mob. >> so the constitution creates the district of columbia and designates it as the seat of government. the 23rd amendment ratifies that. it is created by the constitution. my understanding is congress cannot override the constitution. what if congress really wants to? can they do it then? what happens if there is a great
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political advantage to one party to do it? democrats have inherited a broken senate, can they make it work? nbc news, new push for washington dc statehood. new york magazine, pc statehood is the democrats only option. -- d.c. statehood is the only option. the premise of these articles is democrats think they won't be able to control the senate long-term and they need these extra seats so it's really
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important. if they think it's important, can they override what is written? >> let me get on the record and important point. it's often thought we on this side or opposed to giving distinct -- district residents the vote. nothing is further from the truth. but you have to do it in the constitutional way. that means you have to address among other things the 23rd amendment problem because there will still be people within the district who still have the right to vote. you cannot remove that from them by statute. it has to have an amendment to do that. if the tables were reversed on some other issue, i think the other side would be screaming. >> a fundamental premise of our
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democracy is that the constitution is the supreme law of the land that binds all who live under it and we can change it. we have a process to do that. what congress can't do is override the constitution when it is inconvenient for their majority. the constitution enters. -- indoors -- endures. >> mayor in your written testimony you state it is contradictory that the 23rd amendment is being held up as
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the main barrier to further expanding constitutional rights in the district. >> let me be clear what the 23rd amendment does. it allowed d.c. residence a vote for president's -- president. that was in the 1960's. so before 1960's, 10 years before i was born, we could not even vote for president. that is what the 23rd amendment does. the intent was to expand democracy to d.c. residence and now it is being held up as a barrier. i just ask you to look at the comments that were submitted by 39 legal scholars.
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the 23rd amendment poses no constitutional barrier to the passage of this bill. d.c. can be admitted as a state. practical concerns have been discussed on this bill also lays out practical solutions by repealing the enforcement legislation. the 23rd amendment makes clear that it is the congress by statute can enforce the 23rd amendment, must enforce it. that is what will happen after the bill is passed. >> you have heard the mayor speak and critics say the 23rd amendment provides sufficient voting rights because you can
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vote for president. could you explain the importance of granting equal representation and how important that is in your mind? >> every american citizen has the right, the right to elect people to the legislative branch and executive branch and therefore have a voice in the selection of the judicial branch. to suggest that for those living in the district of columbia that solely having the right to participate in the presidential election can't come out to the what is tantamount to the one third rule. we will give you one third of your rights and withhold the
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other two thirds. i have listened today to a lot of arguments about constitution and the law. when you balance what is fundamental to the united states , all of the rights of citizens, it is the right to vote which is fundamental. when the 23rd amendment was passed, black d.c. residence did not have the protection of the voting rights act. poll tax was legal. these are different times and i think all of these arguments fall by the wayside when you balance it against the necessity. what does a vote in congress give you the opportunity to do? participate in the process of writing law. giving yourselves a voice on taxation issues and regulatory issues and a wide range of issues.
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d.c. is a dan, community -- is a dynamic community. voters do not want to retro seed to maryland. maryland does not want that either. so this is so crucial that the right to vote is what is at stake. the right to representation is at stake. our soldiers have been overseas fighting in iraq and afghanistan , fighting for democracy. fighting for the right to vote, the right to participate, for others to participate. what about here? why are we singled out? forget partisanship. forget who will vote for whom. that's not what is at stake. if we truly want to be
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nonpartisan, we will be like lady justice and put on a blindfold and affirm the fundamental right to vote without regard for who they might vote for. >> a foundational principle of our nation was etched in the declaration of independence that the government is derived from just powers which are from the consent of the people. professor, and your written testimony you state that that principle animates the whole constitution that the idea that congress should be electorally responsible to the people for whom it legislates. professor, could you explain how d.c. statehood would fulfill our core democratic principles while also complying with founding
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fathers' intent there be independent seat of government. i think you are on mute. mr. primus: now can you hear me? statehood would mean that d.c. residents who are american citizens can vote and be represented in congress. it's that simple. it would mean that the constitutional provision of a seat of government that is not part of any state would be maintained. we can have a vote if we can have both, it doesn't seem to make sense to bring the constitution if we decide not to have a vote. because constitution -- 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.
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that's article 4. congress has the power to admit new states. that's all this would be. so sometimes we have heard this discussed as if those are really powerful incentives to admit d.c. statehood but it can't be done because the constitution doesn't admit it and we would disrespect the constitution to go forward. what actually disrespects the constitution is to pretend that the constitution says that it doesn't. 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 article 4, congress, not d.c., we heard a number of times d.c. is unique. article 4 doesn't say except d.c.
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all the things raised as objections are actually not in the constitution. the constitution permits this. congress can decide to do it or not. 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 nothing in the constitution does prevent it. chair peters: thank you, professor primus. mayor bowser, the professor just mentioned nothing is in the constitution that would prevent this from happening. we would also like to think about what perhaps our founding fathers thinking as they wrote this. my question to you is, 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?
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mayor bowser: absolutely not, senator. we know as we have 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 their windows and see this building, don't have a vote or a voice in this chamber, and no vote in the house of representatives. as the professor outlined, 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. chair peters: mr. morial, i mentioned men and women serving in the military from the district now.
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we know since world war i, around 200,000 brave men and women from washington, d.c., have served in the armed forces. including 11,000 residents who are actively serving right now. 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 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. mayor bowser: 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 academies in service to their country. d.c. residents, you note, senator, aren't asking for special treatment.
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we are asking to be treated equally. we have stepped up in every case that we have 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 to see here in washington, d.c., a world class state-of-the-art new veterans 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.
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we can promote innovative housing options like we have 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 our country really invest in response to our veterans. but imagine, i think when we were here the last time, we were joined by members of our armed forces who when important measures come before this senate, 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. chair peters: thank you, mayor. senator carper you are recognized for your questions. senator carper: thank you. we appreciate your patience as a panel. thank you for bearing with us.
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thank you, mr. chairman. i one last question if i could for professor primus. some folks are concerned that 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 to the 23rd amendment. our bill, s. 51, would repeal the enabling statute in the 23rd amendment and provide expedited resolution for repeal of the amendment. i understand even if congress does not move to repeal the 23rd amendment, it can remedy the situation. professor primus, can you tell us what congress has when it comes to the three electors assigned to the federal district and why this isn't a constitutional obstacle. mr. primus: first, best case
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scenario, everybody agrees, the 23rd amendment should be repealed. the good news is if everyone agrees it would be a good situation to have a couple dozen people name three electors for presidency, the repeal would come quickly. if you think we can't repeal the 23rd amendment, it means you don't believe the constitution can be amended at all. and that's a proposition that i think few of us want to endorse. until that happens, s. 51 as presently written picks the electors appointed pursuant to the 23rd amendment out of the electoral count. that ultimately means the president. that's enough to prevent the situation where those electors distort the outcome of a presidential election even if
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the 23rd amendment is still on the books. 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 implementing the 23rd amendment. for example, congress could provide a statute exercising their constitutional power 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. it wouldn't be hard to do. it would have the effect of making sure that 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. if necessary could specify what shall constitute the winner of
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the national popular vote. it could even in a symbolic measure if it wanted to make that admission of d.c. into a further moment of connection to the framing of the constitution, it could even direct those electors to vote for president, for george washington of virginia, and for vice president, john adams of massachusetts. that would not distort the elections at all. the best thing is for the 23rd amendment to repeal but any of these solutions would do. the concern that we can't find a solution for something for which there are many good solutions, we don't want to find a solution. there are lots of easy solutions here and s. 51 already has one of them. senator carper: mr. chairman, thank you. thank you again the panel. all the witnesses on both sides.
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and senator lieberman as well. i open 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. jefferson once said words to this effect, if the people know the truth, they won't make a mistake. if the people know the truth, they won't make a mistake. our intent in this hearing today to ensure people know the truth. most people have no -- 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 basis the federal income tax paid by the residents of the district are greater than any other state. most people don't realize that the district of columbia doesn't have the authority to call the washington national guard.
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there are any number of things that people don't realize. my guess is the framers when they framed the constitution never would have imagined that the district of columbia would have this many people and pay this much in taxes yet not have the opportunity to have representation to vote in the house and the senate. this is a wrong that needs to be righted. my hope is with the information, the knowledge that we are gaining from this hearing and others going forward that we'll make at the end of the day we'll do the right thing. i close with the words of william wilberforce, great british parliamentarian who for many years was leader against slavery in great britain. he used these words, 150 years ago, he said, you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know. we want to make sure -- we want to make sure the people of this country know the truth. the whole truth. and nothing but the truth. thank you, mr. chairman. again for the witnesses.
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chair peters: thank you, senator carper. in closing out this hearing, i want to first thank congresswoman norton for your opening, for your incredible leadership over the years, and for passing significant legislation out of the house that we are now in the process of looking at here in the u.s. senate. i also want to thank senator lieberman 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 that certainly has provided perspective on this, in my mind, this fundamental civil rights issue. 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 as a partisan issue in any way.
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this is about ensuring that 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 our speakers. i appreciate our witnesses for their input on this important issue. the record for this hearing will remain open for 15 days until july 7 at 5 p.m. for the submission of statements and questions for the record. and with that this hearing is -- senator carper: thanks to d.c.
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shadow senator michael brown for their input in participation of this hearing. we appreciate it. thank you. chair peters: final words. this hearing is now adjourned.
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agency for international development, samantha power, is testifying


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