Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding today’s House vote on D.C. statehood legislation and Republicans’ efforts to restrict voting rights across the country and to deny equal representation in Congress to hundreds of thousands of Americans. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks which can also be viewed here:
Today the House of Representatives will pass a bill granting the District of Columbia official statehood. I applaud my House Democratic colleagues for taking this important step towards recognizing the full citizenship of more than 700,000 residents of the District of Columbia.
This is a matter of just representation. Our system of government is designed to give everyone in our county a voice in forging their own destiny. Most citizens do that by voting for members of Congress and Senators from their states to represent them in this temple of democracy, to advocate for their interests and voice their concerns.
The District of Columbia has more residents than Vermont and Wyoming and nearly the same as Delaware, Alaska and several other states, and they bear the full responsibilities and duties of citizenship like residents in all those other states. D.C. residents can be summoned for jury duty. They have served in every war since the American Revolution. And they pay federal income taxes just like residents from every other state. You can learn that from any license plate outside this building. And yet, they are denied real representation in Congress. In the words D.C. borrowed from the founding fathers, taxation without representation.
Sadly, the debate over D.C. statehood has recently taken a rather dark turn. Some of my colleagues on the other side, rather than fashion any argument on the merits, have taken to denigrating the basic worth of residents of the District of Columbia—a part of our country that is 47 percent African American. One member of the minority party went so far as to say lawmakers should “go out to where the real people are across the country and ask them what they think [about D.C. statehood].”
Get out to where the “real people” are.
I shouldn’t have to remind my colleagues that it is shockingly inappropriate to imply that lives and occupations and rights of D.C. residents are somehow less than their fellow citizens in other, “more real,” and almost always more white parts of the country.
We all know that the minority party opposes D.C. statehood because it fears giving political power and representation to American citizens if they might not vote for Republicans. It smacks of the effort going on right now in Republican-led state legislatures all across the country to pass laws that overwhelmingly make it harder for minorities, poorer Americans and younger Americans to vote.
The far right, the hard right which seems to be so dominant in the party on the other side, is so afraid of losing political power—and so unwilling to appeal to anyone that doesn’t already agree with them—that their strategy has become to restrict voting rights and deny equal representation in Congress to hundreds of thousands of Americans.
So D.C. statehood, unfortunately, is part of a continuing thread of not allowing people their right to vote, to representation, that seems to be growing in the Republican party, particularly here in the Senate, and in legislatures throughout the country unfortunately.
Self-government, voting rights: these are not Democratic rights. These are not Republican rights. They are American rights. They are issues of fairness and democracy. It’s not about Right and Left, it’s about right and wrong.
D.C. statehood is an idea whose time has come.