Talk of car dealerships, airports, and yard signs obscures the glaring reason the right opposes D.C. statehood.
There is one very obvious reason why Republicans are hell-bent on refusing statehood to Washington, D.C.: The city is a Democratic stronghold, and its becoming a state would surely result in two more Democratic votes in the Senate. For this reason Republicans remain intent on denying the city’s residents the same federal representation that even states with smaller populations than D.C. enjoy, including Wyoming and Vermont. But rather than simply admit they don’t believe the capital city’s largely Democratic, plurality-Black population deserves representation due to its political leanings, some conservatives are trotting out nonsensical arguments to justify their anti-statehood stance.
On Monday the House Oversight and Reform Committee held a hearing on H.R. 51, a Democratic-led bill aimed at granting statehood to the District. GOP Rep. Jody Hice used his speaking time at the hearing to argue that the District’s supposed lack of car dealerships is a driving force behind his reasoning for voting against H.R. 51. “D.C. would be the only state—the only state—without an airport, without a car dealership, without a capital city, and without a landfill,” said Hice, who has previously asserted that granting statehood to the U.S. capital would run counter to the vision of the Constitution’s Framers.
As noted by Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Hice’s rationale for opposing statehood is not only ridiculous, it is also false. “It was cited that there’s no car dealership in the District of Columbia,” Raskin said. “That’s not a constitutional restriction. It turns out there is a car dealership in the District of Columbia. At this point [do] we agree that people in D.C. should enjoy equal political rights? Of course not, because they’re simply trying to gin up whatever arguments they can think of. These are frivolous arguments.”
After Hice was informed of his erroneous argument by Democratic reps Raskin and Gerald Connolly, who laughed off the “absurdity” of his colleague’s claims, the Georgia Republican explained his ignorance by saying, “If there’s a car dealership in D.C., I apologize for being wrong. I have no idea where it is.” (There is, of course, more than one auto dealership in D.C., including a downtown Tesla storefront near the Capitol building and the White House.) Still, Hice appeared to be undeterred by his error. He went on to push his arguments about D.C.’s lack of a landfill and airport, with the latter point conveniently ignoring the three major airports that operate just outside the city; one, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, is connected to the Washington Metro system, while another, Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, is slated to have its own subway stop in 2022.
Another Republican on Monday hearkened back to the nation’s founding to make the case against D.C. statehood. “The Founding Fathers never intended for Washington D.C. to be a state,” tweeted South Dakota senator Mike Rounds, to which historian Kevin Kruse shot back: “The Dakota territory was cut in half and admitted as two states, as part of a larger scheme by Republicans to add six new states over a nine month period in 1889-1890 and thereby pack the Senate with Republicans … like you.” Alessandra Biaggi, a New York state senator, also responded to Rounds: “The Founding Fathers never intended for me to vote.”
One of the most inane arguments came from Zack Smith, a legal fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, who claimed during the hearing that D.C. residents already have “undue influence over the federal government” because of their ability to plant political yard signs that lawmakers might see when they’re driving or walking around town. “There’s no question that D.C. residents already impact the national debate,” Smith droned. “For the members here today, how many of you saw D.C. statehood yard signs or bumper stickers or banners on your way to this hearing today? I certainly did. Where else in the nation could such simple actions reach so many members of Congress?”
Some Republicans have been upfront about their opposition to statehood by directly pointing to the left-leaning voters who occupy the city. “Our base is concerned. This is their first step of their political power grab,” GOP Rep. James Comer said in a recent interview with The Washington Post. Comer returned to this line during the Monday hearing, pointing to D.C.’s “90% Democratic” population and adding, “D.C. statehood is a key part of the radical leftist agenda to reshape America, along with the Green New Deal, defunding the police, and packing the U.S. Supreme Court.” While H.R. 51 will almost certainly pass in the Democrat-controlled House, it will face major opposition in the Senate, where Democrats also maintain control—given Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking power—but will likely face near-total opposition from Republicans set on blocking it from reaching the 60-vote threshold to overcome the filibuster.