A D.C. statehood measure has overcome an early hurdle: H.R. 51 will be reviewed by a House committee.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson struck a patriotic and optimistic tone at a press conference announcing the hearing on Thursday.
"We have never been at this place before," Norton said. She says it's the first hearing on D.C. statehood in 26 years.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform will hold a hearing on H.R. 51, the Washington D.C. Admission Act, on July 24.
Norton, Bowser and Mendelson have all pressed for D.C. statehood and a growing number of Democrats from around the country agree with them. In March, the House of Representatives voted in favor of a pro-statehood measure for the first time in history, Norton said.
Elijah Cummings, D-Md., has been an ally of the statehood movement in Congress and had promised to schedule a hearing on the matter before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which he chairs.
Under current laws, D.C. residents cannot elect senators nor voting members of Congress, and the federal government must give final approval to local laws.
H.R. 51 would admit the capital into the union under the name Washington, Douglass Commonwealth. Residents would elect one representative and two senators shortly after the law's approval. Federal land, monuments and major buildings would remain under the control of the Federal government.
Can Statehood Win Federal Approval?
With about 75 percent of D.C. voters registered as Democrats, statehood hasn't caught on with Republican leaders. But Mayor Bowser said she pledged $1 million to fund pro-statehood publicity throughout the country, targeting both parties.
Norton says there has only been one other time when D.C. statehood was put to a vote on the House floor: During her first term in the early 90s. She says Democrats have come around on the idea since.
If H.R. 51 gets past committee and the House floor, it still faces a Republican-controlled Senate, but Norton said she's optimistic.
"We think that nothing happens in the Senate until it happens first in the House," she said. "We're going to have the House, the Senate, the presidency and become the 51st state."