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Senate holds rare hearing on D.C. statehood

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and former Sen. Joe Lieberman chat before they testify at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and former Sen. Joe Lieberman chat before they testify at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo

June 22 (UPI) -- The Senate on Tuesday held a rare hearing to evaluate statehood for Washington, D.C., with supporters pushing for voting rights and opponents questioning the legality of creating a new state without a constitutional amendment.

It was the first time a Senate panel has held a hearing on the issue since 2014.

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Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., sponsors the legislation to make the district a state. The House passed the bill in April and the Senate has yet to consider the issue.

Democrats, who generally support the measure, hold a majority in the Senate, but Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has said he won't vote in favor, all but ensuring its failure.

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Norton -- who represents the District of Columbia's at-large congressional district in the House, but doesn't get a vote in the chamber -- said statehood is a matter of representation. The district has no representation in the Senate, but receives three electoral votes when electing president.

She said despite this, residents of the city pay more in federal income tax per capita than the other states.

"The country was founded on the principles of no taxation without representation and consent of the government," Norton said told the Senate's Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

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"D.C. residents are taxed without representation and cannot consent to the laws under which they as American citizens must live."

Republicans, though, had concerns about making the district a state with legislation -- saying that it can only be done with a constitutional amendment. Republicans also don't support the measure because the district leans blue and would likely vote two Democratic senators into the upper chamber.

"What Congress cannot do is override the Constitution anytime it becomes inconvenient for a majority in Congress," said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., a member of the committee. "The Constitution endures and that is the fundamental premise of our democratic republic, and I fear that premise is being threatened by this legislation."

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