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Marylanders in Congress Aiding D.C. Statehood Effort

Is the District of Columbia inching closer to its ever-elusive goal of statehood? If so, two members of Congress from Maryland are playing a role and helping D.C.’s cause.

The House has scheduled the first hearing on D.C. statehood legislation in 26 years — on July 24 in the Oversight and Reform Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.).

“For 218 years, residents of the District of Columbia have lived in our country as American citizens without equal representation or equal self-government,” said D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the chief sponsor of the legislation. “I am particularly grateful to Chairman Cummings for his leadership in pressing forward with the necessary hearing on our D.C. statehood bill to enable our bill to go to the House floor.”

Four Maryland members initially co-sponsored the legislation: Reps. Anthony G. Brown (D), Jamie Raskin (D), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) and John P. Sarbanes (D). But on Thursday, statehood proponents got a new convert: House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), who announced in a Washington Post op-ed that he is now supporting the push for D.C. statehood after years of opposition.

“I have been hesitant in past years to call for statehood for the District because I believed that we could achieve voting rights for its residents without having to take the politically difficult steps statehood would entail,” Hoyer wrote. “That’s what I tried to do in 2010 by pursuing a deal on legislation proposed years earlier by Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) to give House representation to the District and an additional House seat to Utah. Sadly, that effort to achieve a compromise fell short. I now believe the only path to ensuring its representation is through statehood.”

Norton praised Hoyer’s conversion.

“I am grateful to my good friend Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who has always been a good friend to the District, for cosponsoring our D.C. statehood bill,” Norton said. “We have made unprecedented progress on D.C. statehood in the first six months of this Congress, but Leader Hoyer’s cosponsorship is particularly important because he sets the House floor schedule.”

Norton said she has 204 House co-sponsors. A companion Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), has 32 co-sponsors.

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