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House GOP targets DC Home Rule amid state push

The 2022 midterm elections pose a serious threat to the freedom and autonomy of Washington, DC, as House Republicans want to limit governance in the city if they win in November.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. James Comer (R.Ky.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, which has jurisdiction over the District of Columbia, have both suggested earlier this month a renewed focus on limiting the city’s ability to govern itself if it gains power.

Going even further, Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), a member of the Oversight Committee, told the Daily Caller he was working on legislation to strip Washington entirely of its autonomy by repealing the DC Home Rule Act of 1973. The Home Rule Act allowed an elected mayor and city council to establish policy for residents of the district for the first time in city history.

“That’s nonsense,” Del said. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DD.C.) about the proposal to strip the district of self-governance. But, she added, it’s also “the kind of threat I just have to take seriously.”

The District of Columbia, home to 700,000 Americans, is not a state and, despite the Home Rule Act, is still subject to congressional interference. As the city became home to a large black population after the Civil War, Southern segregationists in Congress sought to limit the city’s autonomy while imposing Jim Crow rules on its population. This desire to crush independent city governance remains in the contemporary Republican Party.

Even if a Republican-controlled Congress approves it, a bill to eliminate the district’s self-governing statute would have to pass the Senate’s filibuster threshold, which remains intact. It would also require the president’s signature, which Joe Biden would not provide. But that it even exists suggests that many congressional Republicans are keen to expand the anti-democratic wave of restrictive election laws the party has passed in district states. And DC — a favorite punching bag of Republicans angry that the city is governed almost exclusively by Democrats — could be at the forefront of those efforts, its statelessness leaving it vulnerable to lawmakers its residents don’t. not elect.

Republicans say their desire to strip the district of its autonomy or limit its legislative powers stems from the rising homicide rate, rising homelessness and the imposition of COVID-related restrictions. 19. But homicide rates have increased in urban and rural communities across the country during the pandemic; homelessness has increased in places where housing costs have skyrocketed due to limited housing; and the district just announced the end of its mask and vaccine mandates for private companies.

But Holmes Norton, who has served as the district’s nonvoting representative in Congress since 1991, thinks Republicans have a more nefarious motive for targeting the nation’s capital.

“My only idea how something as absurd as this could turn out is that they see how close we are to the state,” she said.

Of the. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DD.C.) wears a 51st State face mask during a DC State press conference.

For the second time in 50 years, the district is making a realistic push to become the nation’s 51st state. The House passed a bill to make DC the 51st state in previous and current sessions of Congress. A companion bill in the Senate is now supported by all but four members of the Senate Democratic caucus.

DC residents broadly support the push: In 2016, 85% of voters favored a statehood referendum that would grant full representation, voting rights and self-government to the nation’s capital and people who live there. The majority of DC residents are black or Latino, and the push toward statehood, activists say, is an important aspect of broader Democratic efforts to bolster civil and voting rights in the face of Republican efforts to implement new voting restrictions and other undemocratic measures in states nationwide.

With a statehood bill ultimately set to cross the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate and two Democrats opposing the rule change, support for filibuster reform systematic has become a default position among Democratic Senate candidates. This means that ending the filibuster is a matter of when, not if.

For state supporters, Republican proposals to attack the city’s autonomy are just further evidence of the need to break out of congressional tutelage and become the 51st state.

“If the GOP rolls back Home Rule, we will lose what little autonomy we currently have over core district functions: schools, safety, reproductive rights, COVID protocols, and so much more,” said organizer Jamal Holtz. principal of 51 for 51. , a pro-state group. “We cannot continue to live in fear of the whims of a white member of Congress thousands of miles away. The only remedy to protect 700,000 Washingtonians in perpetuity is to make DC the 51st state.

In a statement, Patrice Snow, director of communications for DC Vote, said: “The announcement of their anti-democratic plot also demonstrates that the movement to enfranchise the 700,000 American citizens paying taxes in Washington, DC through Statehood is vociferous, proud and effective. successfully towards his goal.

This isn’t the first time Republicans have floated the idea of ​​stripping DC of the domestic regime. In the late 1990s, House Republicans talked about doing just that after Congress imposed a financial control commission on the city to take control of its finances during Marion Barry’s second term as mayor. . Norton views the current attack on the city as “entirely different” from the 1990s proposal, as the city currently runs a budget surplus (rather than the deficit it had under Barry).

Many DC-based activists also view statehood as a matter of when, rather than if. And in response, Congressional Republicans who have failed to make legitimate counter-arguments against statehood itself are resorting to an all-out attack on the district’s residents’ ability to govern themselves.

“Their call to overturn the Home Rule Act goes beyond the typical game of using DC residents to score cheap political points at home and into a racist attack on the basic right of representation,” Snow said.

“All Americans deserve the freedom to vote, the freedom to govern themselves, and the freedom to determine their own destiny. It is only because of our lack of statehood that these representatives feel empowered to deny these freedoms and engage in the racist subjugation of American citizens.

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Teresa R. Cabrera

The author Teresa R. Cabrera