House Panel On DC Statehood Bill Ruptures Into Squabble Over GA Voting Restrictions

Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) speaks during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on July 28, 2020. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
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April 14, 2021 2:58 p.m.

The House Oversight Committee’s markup session on H.R. 51, the bill aiming to make the District of Colombia a state, on Wednesday veered into a bizarre argument over Georgia Republicans’ new voting restriction law.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) brought up the law while taking aim at Republicans’ main gripe with D.C. statehood: That it would give Democrats more voting power, particularly in the Senate, where D.C.’s overwhelmingly blue voting bloc would all but guarantee the addition of two more Democratic senators.

Raskin asserted that the Georgia law, which Republicans pushed after the Peach State swung blue for Joe Biden in the 2020 election, and the GOP’s opposition to D.C. statehood are all part of a broader GOP effort to disenfranchise voters in order to stay in power. Civil rights advocates have slammed the law and have labeled refusals to grant D.C. statehood — which has a Black plurality — as forms of voter suppression against Black Americans, though Raskin did not make this point in his remarks.

Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), a Trump loyalist who’s also running for Georgia secretary of state in a virtually unheard of career move for a sitting U.S. congressman, defended his state’s law by insisting, without prompting, that it wasn’t racist.

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“I would just like to say there is nothing racist about the bill that was just passed in Georgia,” Hice declared.

Raskin pointed out that he hadn’t said anything about race.

“That’s on your mind, not my mind,” the Democrat retorted. “I didn’t raise that at all.”

He highlighted the law’s widely criticized ban on giving food and water to people waiting in long lines at polling sites, also known as “line-warming.”

Hice argued that people don’t vote “with the expectation that they’re going to get snacks and water.”

The GOP lawmaker also claimed it was a “lie” that voters couldn’t be given water, saying that poll workers were allowed to do so.

Raskin pointed out that poll workers generally don’t have time to hand out water bottles, and asked why someone like his brother wouldn’t be allowed to give him water if he were stuck in line for hours on end.

“Why can’t you bring a bottle of water with you when you go and see there’s a six or seven hour line?” the Republican responded.

“Alright, I think we see now where the opposition to DC statehood is coming from,” a fed-up Raskin said. “There is an attitude that is growing in the country which is that if you don’t like what someone else stands for, you nullify their right to vote.”

H.R. 51, which was introduced by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), will be put to a full vote on the House floor next week. The bill is expected to pass the chamber, as it did in the previous Congress. However, it faces a major hurdle in the Senate due to the filibuster, which requires 10 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats in order to pass most bills.

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