Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) took the floor Thursday morning, one of a long line of representatives getting a minute of floor time to make the case for D.C. statehood before the House passed it this afternoon.
“I have had enough of my colleagues’ racist insinuations that somehow the people of Washington D.C. are incapable or even unworthy of our democracy,” he started.
“One Senate Republican said that D.C. wouldn’t be a ‘well-rounded working class state,’” he chuckled, referring to Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). “I had no idea there were so many syllables in the word ‘white.’”
“One of my House Republican colleagues said that D.C. shouldn’t be a state because the district doesn’t have a landfill — my goodness!” he exclaimed. “With all the racist trash my colleagues have brought to this debate, I can see why they’re worried about having a place to put it.”
About halfway through his sentence, the Republican side of the chamber erupted. “Mr. Speaker, point of order!” someone shouted. Jones glanced over, but continued speaking.
“The truth is, there is no good faith argument for disenfranchising over 700,000 people, Mr. Speaker, most of whom are people of color,” he said.
The yells on the Republican side grew louder, as representatives demanded that Jones’ words be struck from the record.
“Do your job!” Republicans yelled at the presiding speaker. “Read the rules!”
Jones gave his consent for his words to be withdrawn, then finished his speech.
“These desperate objections are about fear — fear that in D.C., their white supremacist politics will no longer play,” Jones said. “Fear that soon enough, their white supremacist politics won’t work anywhere in America. Fear that if they don’t rig our democracy, they will not win.”
With that, Jones left the microphone, leaving Republicans stewing in his wake.
The House voted on H.R. 51 Thursday, passing the bill along party lines that would make Washington D.C. the 51st state, with one representative and two senators.
Republicans are adamantly against the measure, offering up a series of arguments — people in D.C. don’t have “real” jobs, D.C. isn’t capable of self-governance — that many have panned as racist in a city in which Black residents comprise 47 percent of the population. The largely unspoken crux of their resistance is that if bright blue D.C. does become a state, its senators and representatives would reliably be Democrats.
Some Republican arguments have become targets for mockery: earlier this week, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) claimed that “D.C. wouldn’t even qualify as a singular congressional district.” Standing over her shoulder was Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) whose entire state is less populous than Washington D.C.
Republicans also like arguing that granting D.C. statehood would be unconstitutional, because the Constitution gives Congress the power “to exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever” over “the Seat of the Government of the United States.”
The House bill addresses this though, and would silo “the principal federal monuments, the White House, the Capitol Building, the U.S. Supreme Court Building, and the federal executive, legislative, and judicial office buildings located adjacent to the Mall and the Capitol Building” into a federal district separate from the rest of the city, which would become a state.
Still, while GOP objection to D.C. statehood is more rooted in political calculus than anything else, the House bill’s passage through the Senate faces long odds with the legislative filibuster still in place. And even aside from the near certainty that it would attract no Senate GOP support, multiple moderate Democrats have so far declined to come down one way or another.
The Biden administration officially came out in favor of D.C. statehood this week in a policy statement.
“For far too long, the more than 700,000 people of Washington, D.C. have been deprived of full representation in the U.S. Congress,” the statement said. “This taxation without representation and denial of self governance is an affront to the democratic values on which our nation was founded.”