At DPCC Hearing On D.C. Statehood, Schumer Calls Out Republicans For Saying D.C. Residents Are Not “Real People,” Says D.C. Statehood Is A Matter of Democracy

July 1, 2020

Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today joined Senate Democrats, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Mayor Muriel Bowser, and D.C. residents and officials to discuss the need for representation for D.C. residents and pushed for action on D.C. statehood legislation, the Washington D.C. Admission Act. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Thank you Senator Stabenow, and thank you for putting this great thing together. I want to thank my colleagues for joining us—from the greater capital region—Senator Kaine, Senator Van Hollen, and Senator Carper. Southern Delaware is probably the greater capital region too. So thank you, and I want to thank Senator Klobuchar, our ranking member on the Rules Committee as well, for joining us and so many of our great luminaries from D.C., including our mayor and our representative in the House. It’s great for you all to be here.

I planned to start by talking about how the people of D.C. deserve equal representation in Congress—entitled to all Americans—and I’ll get to that in a moment. But I feel compelled to respond to a press conference my Republican friends just held in opposition to D.C. statehood. We just heard from Senators Daines, and Cotton and Graham about D.C. residents.

And what they said—what Senators Daines and Graham said—was utterly despicable referring to D.C. residents.

Speaking about his opposition to DC Statehood, the junior Senator from Montana said that lawmakers should "go out to where the real people are at across the country and ask them where they think."

This is a dehumanizing statement about the 700,000 hardworking people in the District of Columbia, plain and simple.

Here is the truth: this city is home to hundreds of thousands of Americans, most of whom are Black, who hold everyday jobs just like everyone else: they educate our kids, and deliver groceries, care for our sick, work at restaurants and churches and protect the people who work in the Capitol. They aren’t rich. They aren’t connected. And they work just as hard as everyone else to keep up.

So I’ll say this to the Republican Senators: After your meeting at the Heritage Foundation or the Federalist Society, and after your dinner at the fancy steakhouse with big oil lobbyists, why don’t you take a walk in some D.C. neighborhoods and ask some of these families if they consider themselves ‘real people’?

Again, what Senators Daines and Cottton, and Graham said this afternoon about D.C. residents was just utterly despicable.

To even hint this city’s residents are not the same as the “real people” who live just outside the city’s boundaries is dehumanizing, disgraceful and obscene.

And here is another truth: even though District of Columbia has a population larger than two states it, still exists without full congressional representation.

So it’s long past time to end the historic disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens, most of whom are Black, and make D.C. a state.

D.C. residents fulfill all the obligations of citizenship. They pay federal taxes. They can be summoned for jury duty. They have served in every single war since the Revolutionary War.

Nonetheless, they are still denied real representation in Congress.

The American ideal of “self-government” will always be incomplete as long as we hold hundreds of thousands of our own citizens at arm’s length.

Leader McConnell has dismissed the idea that Americans who satisfy the obligations of citizenship should enjoy the full rights and privileges of citizenship, calling it “socialism.”

Well, Leader McConnell, I have a different name for it: Democracy.

Republicans couch their opposition in constitutional arguments, and they frame Democratic efforts to enfranchise hundreds of thousands of American citizens as a “power grab.”

To say that allowing more Americans an equal and full voice in our democracy is bad for Republicans and good for Democrats – that says something right there. It smacks of the same cynicism that compels Republicans—from President Trump all the way down to state legislatures—to sponsor voting restrictions and outright voter suppression in state after state after state.

The Republican Party, unfortunately, has truly entered a Dark Age when its leaders are forced to argue against more Americans voting because it could hurt their party at the polls.

Self-governance and equal representation aren’t Democratic issues or Republican issues. Full access to democracy and self-determination benefits all Americans.

This is an issue of fairness, of equality, not about Right or Left. It’s about right and wrong.

That is why I am a proud cosponsor of my colleague Senator Carper’s bill, the Washington D.C. Admission Act–which would eliminate this double disenfranchisement—finally giving D.C. full voting rights and full home rule.

When I become Majority Leader, God willing, one of my top priorities when it comes to voting rights and democracy reform, will be securing D.C. statehood.