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Statehood for District of Columbia could get another look

December 21, 2012|By Richard Simon
  • Statehood for the District of Columbia is a long way off, but retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) has introduced legislation to move the issue forward on Capitol Hill.
Statehood for the District of Columbia is a long way off, but retiring Sen.… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)

WASHINGTON -- Hail to the 51st state.

Statehood for the District of Columbia is a long way off, but retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) has introduced the New Columbia Admissions Act to put the issue on the front burner on Capitol Hill.

"It is long past time to give these American citizens who have chosen Washington as their home full participation in our democracy," Lieberman said in introducing the bill this week.

The District’s lack of a vote in Congress has long been a sore point in the city, which features "Taxation without representation" on its license plates. D.C. residents pay federal taxes and can vote for president but have no senator, and only a nonvoting delegate in the House.

In 1993, the House  rejected a bill to make the district a state. The idea faced resistance from a number of Republicans because the strongly Democratic district would probably elect two Democratic senators and a Democratic member of the House if it became a state.

A bill that would have added two seats to the House -- one for the District of Columbia and another for Republican-leaning Utah -- died in 2010 after a measure was attached to it that would have weakened D.C. gun laws.

A statehood bill introduced last year by Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district’s House delegate, has languished in committee in the Republican-controlled chamber.

But lately, the District has been gaining a bit more respect from members of Congress. A defense bill  includes a Norton-sought provision that would direct the Pentagon to display the D.C. and territorial flags whenever the flags of the 50 states are displayed. The provision grew out of a complaint from a D.C. couple upset that state flags were flown for each of the graduates at a Naval Station Great Lakes graduation ceremony, but not the home flag of their son.

Although Lieberman is leaving the Senate, the first D.C. statehood bill to be introduced in the chamber since 1993 is co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Patty Murray of Washington state.

"I will soon leave Congress after having had the great privilege of serving here for 24 years,’’ Lieberman said. "Securing full voting rights for the 600,000 Americans who live in the District of Columbia is unfinished business, not just for me, but for the United States of America." 

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richard.simon@latimes.com

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