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  • On June 26, 2020, the US House of Representatives voted to do something it had never done before.

  • It passed a bill to create the 51st state by giving the US capital, Washington, DC, statehood.

  • Members of the House of Representatives each represent between 500,000 and a million Americans.

  • DC's 700,000 residents are represented by this woman: Eleanor Holmes Norton.

  • But she couldn't vote on the statehood bill, because she's different from other members.

  • She can speak on the floor and introduce bills, but she can't actually vote.

  • Americans in territories like Puerto Rico and Guam

  • are also represented in Congress bydelegateswho can't vote.

  • But Americans in these places don't pay federal taxes to the US government.

  • DC residents do.

  • In fact, in DC, the average person pays more in federal taxes than in any state.

  • And they're not happy about it.

  • It's why DC's license plates sayTaxation without representation.”

  • President Trump has promised to block Washington, DC, from becoming a state.

  • So that House vote was mostly symbolic.

  • But Washington, DC's residents are clear on what they want.

  • So will DC ever actually become a state?

  • And should it?

  • In the US, the federal government is not supposed to be based in a state.

  • The Constitution says it should be in a neutral federal district

  • what, today, is called the District of Columbia.

  • But since the founding of the country, the district has grown into a major city.

  • "For most of its existence as a city,

  • the District has been under the control of the United States Congress."

  • Starting in the 1960s, Congress made some concessions to DC's calls for representation.

  • It granted them electoral college votes for presidential elections,

  • a non-voting member in Congress,

  • and finally, the right to elect their own local government.

  • But because Congress still completely controls their budget,

  • they often undermine DC's local government --

  • which is another major reason DC residents want statehood.

  • "Like most cities in the United States, it is a progressive city.

  • And so its laws conflict, in some measure, with that of conservative Republicans."

  • That's understating it a little.

  • In the 2016 election, Trump only got a whopping 4% of the vote in DC.

  • Congress has kept DC from using their local tax dollars on things like abortion services,

  • or needle-exchange programs to reduce HIV/AIDS.

  • They've tried to undercut DC's gun laws and same-sex marriage benefits.

  • And they stopped the city from legalizing marijuana.

  • "There are issues in the country, that are very controversial,

  • that Republicans can't do anything about. So they use the District as a prop."

  • Holmes Norton's plan would turn most of the District of Columbia

  • into a new state, called the Douglass Commonwealth.

  • There would still be a federal district around the actual government buildings,

  • but the remaining 66 square miles of neighborhoods would become the newest, smallest state.

  • But it would still have a larger population than two states,

  • and would be about the same size as four others.

  • So, what's the holdup?

  • Well, representatives from other states have lots of reasons.

  • "The Founding Fathers did not intend for Washington, DC, to be a state."

  • "Washington, DC, is a city, not a state."

  • "There is no manufacturing. There is no mining or logging."

  • But it's not a coincidence that every representative speaking out against statehood here is Republican.

  • Statehood would give DC, and most likely the Democratic Party,

  • one more vote in the House of Representatives, and two more votes in the Senate.

  • Which means the actual obstacle to statehood, is politics.

  • "Indeed, always, statehood is a political question."

  • In the decades after the US was founded, new states were regularly added,

  • and without much issue -- until 1818, when Missouri wanted to become a new state.

  • At that time, power in Congress was evenly balanced between states that allowed slavery,

  • and states that didn't.

  • Missouri, which would become a slave state, would tip that balance

  • which representatives of the free states didn't want.

  • So Congress came up with a compromise:

  • Missouri would be added at the same time as Maine, a free state.

  • A pair, to keep the political balance.

  • After that, states were mostly added in pairs.

  • Arkansas, a slave state, with Michigan, a free state;

  • Florida, a slave state, with Iowa, a free state;

  • Texas, a slave state, with Wisconsin, a free state.

  • And that system has also been used to keep the balance between the political parties,

  • most recently in 1959, with the addition of Hawaii, which leaned Republican at the time,

  • and Alaska, which leaned Democratic.

  • Right now, Democrats control one house of Congress,

  • but Republicans control the other one, as well as the presidency.

  • And as long as that's the case, DC is unlikely to become a state on its own.

  • "It would certainly be easier if there were some ready jurisdiction

  • to be made a state that was a Republican jurisdiction."

  • The last time the House voted on DC statehood was in 1993,

  • when Democrats had an even bigger majority than they do today.

  • The bill still failed, with more than 100 Democrats voting no.

  • 2020 is turning out to be different.

  • "Coronavirus begins to take a toll on the US economy."

  • "More than 6 million Americans filed jobless claims."

  • In March, as millions lost their jobs, Congress passed a coronavirus relief bill,

  • giving each state at least a billion dollars.

  • But DC, which is usually treated like a state in most congressional funding,

  • was instead treated as a US territory, and got less than half that.

  • "Being treated like a territory is shocking. It's infuriating."

  • In June, as protests against police violence spread across the country,

  • the National Guard patrolled parts of the city.

  • That kind of occupation would be illegal in every state. But not in DC.

  • "There shouldn't be troops from other states in Washington, DC.

  • The last several days demonstrate that our fight for statehood

  • is also about our right to autonomy."

  • "It's time for statehood to come to Washington, DC."

  • "We've seen in very painful, and frankly violent terms,

  • what the lack of statehood can bring to the residents of the District of Columbia."

  • Right now, the people in charge of the federal government oppose DC statehood.

  • But it only takes one election to change that.

  • "My own grandfather became one of the first African Americans in the DC fire department.

  • His father, Richard Holmes, was a runaway slave from Virginia.

  • He walked to freedom. But he didn't walk to equality.

  • So I figure I'm picking up where he left off.

  • He got us to freedom, he got the Holmes family to freedom;

  • now I've got to get the Holmes family, and all my constituents, to equality."

On June 26, 2020, the US House of Representatives voted to do something it had never done before.

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The fight for America's 51st state, explained

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/07/28
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