Final Reading: Questions of statehood hit home

Washington, D.C., at sunset.
Washington, D.C. Stock photo by Pixabay

Questions of statehood hit home. 

A day after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would make Washington, D.C., the 51st state, members of the Vermont House of Representatives pored over a joint resolution urging Congress to make it happen.

Paul Strauss, who represents D.C. as a “shadow” senator, on Friday urged members of Vermont’s House Committee on Government Operations to approve the measure, J.R.H.4. He said he and other advocates working to promote statehood often use Vermont as an example of a state that has fewer people than D.C.

“I hope we can count on your support,” Strauss said. “It is a resolution that is largely symbolic, but it is an important symbol because your state comes up so often in our discussions.”

The committee also learned about another resolution, J.R.H.9, which would throw the Vermont Legislature’s support behind Puerto Rican statehood, too. The bulk of the discussion, however, focused on the nation’s capital. 

Thirteen state legislatures have introduced resolutions supporting D.C. statehood this year. 

Though it’s home to 725,000 residents — about 100,000 more than Vermont — the district has no representation in Congress. Nevertheless, Congress authorizes its budget and appoints judges for D.C., Strauss told committee members.

While many committee members appeared to support the resolution, Rep. Mark Higley, R-Lowell, expressed irritation over it.

“As a Vermont representative, I think we have a lot more important things to do here in Vermont,” he said. 

Higley also suggested that D.C. statehood was merely a Democratic ploy to strengthen the party’s hold over the U.S. Senate by creating two new seats representing a reliably Democratic city. 

“I think it’s overly political right now, and I see it as a completely political move,” Higley said.

Strauss shot back that Vermont’s congressional delegation currently spends a lot of time unnecessarily governing the District of Columbia.

“I would love nothing more than to be able to free up your Vermont senators to focus purely on Vermont’s problems,” he said.

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Kit Norton

About Kit

Kit Norton is the general assignment reporter at VTDigger. He is originally from eastern Vermont and graduated from Emerson College in 2017 with a degree in journalism. In 2016, he was a recipient of The Society of Environmental Journalists' Emerging Environmental Journalist award. Kit has worked at PRI's weekly radio environmental program, Living on Earth, and has written for the online news site Truthout.

Email: [email protected]

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