The battle in Congress is brewing over legislation that would make the federal District of Columbia, otherwise known as Washington DC, a full-blown state with the voting representation in Congress that the over 700,000 people in the district now lack.
Given that the founding mythology of the United States of America leans heavily on the idea that taxation without representation is anathema to the very idea of democracy, the inability of the citizens of Washington DC to rely on elected officials to represent their interests in Congress has been a glaring inconsistency in our national identity.
With the Senate evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, however, the addition of what would likely be two senators and a single representative in the House is not a popular concept for members of the GOP, particularly since Washington DC has traditionally been a heavily Democratic area in local elections and any change would threaten the current balance of power in the Senate.
In that context, it’s unsurprising that tensions over the issue are running high as the legislation authorizing statehood for the city with a population larger than either Wyoming or Vermont is debated on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Naturally, Democrats are doing their utmost to make the argument that statehood for the district is long past due and are using every rhetorical flourish to bolster their case.
One representative, however, stepped over a line this morning in the eyes of Republicans when he called GOP arguments against giving DC residents full congressional representation “racist trash.”
Congressman Mondaire Jones (D-NY) who represents portions of suburban Westchester and Rockland counties outside of New York City and is one of the first openly gay Black members of Congress sparked outrage from his Republican colleagues when he said in a speech to the House floor:
“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,” Rep. Jones began. “One Senate Republican said that D.C. wouldn’t be a — quote — ‘well-rounded, working-class state.’ I had no idea there were so many syllables in the word ‘white.'”
“One of my House Republican colleagues said that DC shouldn’t be a state becasue the district doesn’t have a landfill. My goodness, with all the racist trash my colleagues have brough to this debate, I can see why they’re worried about having a place to put it.”
“The truth is there is no good faith argument for disenfranchising over 700,000 people, Mr. Speaker, most of whom are people of color.”
At this point in his speech, Rep. Jones faced furious objections from GOP representatives who moved to have him withdraw his remarks from the official records of the debate.
It took some wrangling over parliamentary decorum and procedures before Congressman Jones agreed to withdraw his remarks, but the message he meant to convey about the inherent racism of the GOP objections to DC statehood had been sent.
Rep. Jones may have agreed to withdraw his comments, but he was vindicated when, after the debate had been completed, the House voted 216-208 along strict party lines to pass the bill, which will now go to the Senate for consideration.
You can watch a clip of Congressman Jones’s speech about Washington DC statehood in the excerpt below.
Chaos ensues on the House floor after Republicans ask Rep. Mondaire Jones to withdraw his remarks calling GOP arguments on D.C. statehood "racist trash" pic.twitter.com/6PdJkgVRjZ
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) April 22, 2021
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.