Obama declares definitive support for D.C. statehood

"Folks in D.C. pay taxes like everybody else. They contribute to the overall well-being of the country like everybody else. They should be represented like everybody else," said the president.
By Aileen Graef Follow @AileenGraef Contact the Author   |   July 22, 2014 at 4:19 PM

WASHINGTON, July 22 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama excited many Washingtonians Monday after he made a definitive statement supporting D.C. statehood.

Speaking at an event in the Northwest quadrant of the city, Obama was asked what he thought of the district's long battle for statehood and thereby voting rights.

"I'm in D.C., so I'm for it," said Obama. "Folks in D.C. pay taxes like everybody else. They contribute to the overall well-being of the country like everybody else. They should be represented like everybody else. And it's not as if Washington, D.C., is not big enough compared to other states. There has been a long movement to get D.C. statehood and I've been for it for quite some time. The politics of it end up being difficult to get it through Congress, but I think it's absolutely the right thing to do."

This is not the first time the president has alluded to his support for D.C. statehood. He supported legislative efforts for the district to have more autonomy over its budget -- an effort that ultimately failed in a U.S. District Court. He also placed the district's "Taxation without representation" license plates on his limo for his second inauguration.

Many Washington D.C. residents have become increasingly frustrated with their lack of voting representation, especially since the city's population has surpassed the number of residents in the state of Wyoming. The frustration over the lack of budget autonomy boiled over during the government shutdown last year when Congress would not release the funds to run the district.

Aside from budgetary restrictions, residents and lawmakers in the city were angered when Congress attempted to overturn the city's marijuana decriminalization law and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., tried to remove the district's strict gun laws.

"I'm of two minds. Do I think maybe D.C. could have more autonomy? Maybe. But I also know that the Constitution puts D.C. under Congress' purview, and that we give D.C. money from the rest of the country, from the tax receipts. So I think that oversight on the money that we spend, it is incumbent, it's a responsibility of the Constitution, that we have oversight of the money that we spend from the U.S. Treasury in D.C."

Obama's most recent remarks have voting rights activists calling for a hearing on the matter. Despite backing from Senate Democrats, Republicans are more resistant to the idea as it would guarantee another Democratic seat in the House and two in the Senate.

"We have been critical of him [Obama]," Anise Jenkins, a longtime statehood activist, told the Washington Post. "We have to be honest about that. But it's always the right time to do the right thing."

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