House passes statehood bill for Washington D.C.; Higgins opposes in speech from floor

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 08: The U.S. Capitol building exterior is seen at sunset on March 8, 2021 in Washington, DC. The House is scheduled to begin voting on the Senate’s Covid-19 relief bill later this week. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins voted against statehood for Washington, D.C., earlier today, speaking from the House floor in opposition, calling it “unconstitutional.”

Voting along party lines with minority Republicans in opposition, the House approved the bill 216-208. That’s likely the easy part, though. The proposal faces a far tougher fight in the Senate, where simple Democratic control of the chamber won’t be enough.

The legislation proposes creating a 51st state with one representative and two senators, while a tiny sliver of land including the White House, the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall would remain as a federal district. Instead of the District of Columbia, the new state would be known as Washington, Douglass Commonwealth — named after famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who lived in Washington from 1877 until his death in 1895.

An identical statehood bill passed the House in 2020, but it quickly died in the then-Republican-controlled Senate. Now, with the 2020 elections leaving Democrats in control of both chambers and the White House, Republican senators may resort to a filibuster to stymie the statehood bill.

Higgins full remarks are below:

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

“How is it unconstitutional? H.R. 51 violates our Founders’ intent, the actual writ of the Constitution, the land itself which should rightfully be returned to Maryland if its original purpose as land for our Nation’s Capital is discarded by Congress, and finally the required repeal of the 23rd Amendment.

“I’ve explained these Constitutional barriers for two years in Committee, but there is more.

“D.C. does not perform many of the roles of a true state. A prime example, unlike every other state in the Union, D.C. is not responsible for its prison system. 

“About 8,000 D.C. residents are inmates in federal prisons, and the federal government absorbs the huge expense. These are inmates who would normally be in a state prison, but D.C. only has the capacity to house inmates awaiting trial.

“Three times in Committee, I’ve offered an amendment that would transfer this normal state responsibility to D.C. My amendment was rejected by Democrats three times.

“So, let’s look at how D.C. has handled their inmates awaiting trial. According to the Washington Post, D.C. is essentially torturing these inmates with what experts say is mass solitary confinement, 23 hours a day of solitary for every D.C. inmate ongoing for over 400 days. That is certainly a violation of the 8th Amendment. These are human beings awaiting final adjudication. Many will ultimately be found not guilty. Yet, they’ve been held in solitary confinement for 23 hours every day for over a year.

“Is this what we can expect from a D.C. state?

“D.C. is our Nation’s Capital, was intended to be our Nation’s Capital and must remain our Nation’s Capital.

“Mr. Speaker, I yield.”

U.S. Rep Clay Higgins

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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