Why Does Bernie Sanders Want D.C. Statehood? It's His Platform For The Upcoming Primary
Following his meeting with President Obama Thursday, Bernie Sanders advocated for Washington, D.C. statehood during a speech at the White House. Though it's never been at the forefront of his campaign, the Vermont senator has supported the idea for decades. Leading up to the District's June 14 primary, which will mark his final contest against the party's presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton, it will be Sanders' chief policy proposal.
In 1993, the independent politician stood up in the House of Representatives and explained why he believes D.C. should be entitled to statehood. He began by questioning why D.C. isn't a state if its population is larger than that of his state of Vermont, which enjoys more political representation:
Mr. Speaker, how could I in good conscience say that it is appropriate for Vermont to have two seats in the Senate, which we do, to have a Congressman who can vote on all of the issues, which we do, to have a governor and a state legislature which deals with all of the problems facing our people, which we do, and then say that the people of the District of Columbia, with a population larger than Vermont's and larger than some other states, should not be able to enjoy the same rights?
And though Sanders' mention of the proposal may seem random, given the candidate's unwavering focus on the economy during the primary elections, D.C. statehood is a popular topic among Democrats today. In June 2015, Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware proposed the New Columbia Admission Act, which was cosponsored by 16 Democratic and independent senators, including Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Harry Reid, and Cory Booker. Under the act, the District of Columbia would become the nation's 51st state and be named New Columbia. The District of Columbia would not cease to exist. Instead, it would shrink to include just the White House, the Capitol, the Supreme Court, and the National Mall. These areas would remain under Congress' jurisdiction. Sanders discussed the proposal with The Hill and echoed the sentiments he'd expressed in 1993:
Washington, D.C. is currently home to more people than the state of Vermont, yet its residents lack voting representation in Congress. I think it is morally wrong for American citizens who pay federal taxes, fight in our wars, and live in our country to be denied the basic right to full congressional representation.
Hillary Clinton shares Sanders' sentiment. In a piece written for The Washington Informer, the former secretary of state vowed to be "a vocal champion for D.C. statehood" and decried Trump's shaky stance on the concept. Though it may be difficult for Sanders to compete with Clinton on D.C. statehood, since they both endorse it, the topic is sure to become a more popular in national dialogue.