Silicon Valley legislators weigh in on D.C. statehood
From left to right, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla are pictured in this file photo. Photo by Eduardo Cuevas.

A historic vote in the House of Representatives recently moved the District of Columbia one step closer to achieving statehood— and Silicon Valley’s congressional leaders believe that’s a step in the right direction.

“D.C. is home to over 700,000 residents, nearly half of whom are Black, yet these citizens do not have an equal voice in Congress despite paying more in federal taxes than 22 other states,” Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, told San José Spotlight. “This is the definition of taxation without representation.”

The capital’s residents have one non-voting delegate —currently Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton— in the House, and no representation in the Senate.

In a Wednesday statement to San José Spotlight, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, said there was no reason that D.C.’s residents should be denied representation in Congress. The capital has a population larger than that of Wyoming and Vermont, she said, and it meets all the constitutional requirements for statehood.

According to the most recent population estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, D.C. has 705,749 residents. Wyoming and Vermont have 578,759 and 623,989, respectively.

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Fremont, told this news organization that all Americans should welcome the addition of D.C. as the 51st state. He said he was proud to support the capital’s residents and praised the city as being home to some of the nation’s most important leaders and activists.

“The only opposition to enfranchising the hundreds of thousands of people in our capital city stems from Senator (Mitch) McConnell’s fear of losing his Senate majority,” Khanna said.

The Silicon Valley lawmakers’ views aren’t surprising. House Democrats voted overwhelmingly in favor of D.C. statehood on June 26, whereas no House Republicans supported the bill, which has now been passed on to the Republican-held Senate.

It’s understandable that D.C. statehood is a partisan issue, according to Dr. Matthew Harrigan, an adjunct lecturer at Santa Clara University who teaches U.S. politics. Voters in D.C. are overwhelmingly Democratic, he said, meaning their elected lawmakers would almost undoubtedly be Democrats.

Harrigan said he didn’t believe that D.C. statehood would necessarily have a direct impact on California residents, except in terms of how it would sway the balance of power in Congress.

“While D.C. statehood would not alter the electoral map, as D.C. already has its three electoral votes, it would play a major role in altering the balance in the Senate, giving the Democrats two seats that would seem to be theirs for the taking,” he said.

Harrigan said California residents might also consider that D.C. would be one of the nation’s smallest states.

“While many Californians would likely welcome seeing more Democrats in the Senate, they might also lament the fact that yet another state with less than 1/50th of California’s population would possess an equal number of senators,” he said. “Congress is already skewed mightily against the residents of California…Though I assume those who identify as Democrats would still see D.C. statehood as a win.”

But even if Democrats keep the House and win a majority in the Senate in the November elections, Harrigan explained that the road to D.C. statehood could still be a long one. The courts could pose a hurdle, he said, as D.C. is a federal enclave.

In a June 26 news release, Del. Norton said proponents of D.C. statehood were undaunted by any upcoming challenges.

“Far from underestimating the work to come, however, our strategy is in place for full speed ahead,” she wrote.”That strategy will soon become apparent, but today we celebrate.”

Contact Katie King at [email protected] or follow @KatieKingCST on Twitter.

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