The Montgomery County Council has introduced a resolution supporting a bill in Congress that would give make the District of Columbia the 51st state.
The county’s ceremonial resolution comes as the U.S. House of Representatives considers a bill that would grant D.C. statehood. On Tuesday, the House Oversight Committee on Oversight and Reform passed the measure, and it will go to the full house for a vote.
D.C. is represented in the House by a non-voting delegate. The statehood bill in Congress would give the District full representation in the House, as well as two senators.
“The District of Columbia is not only the heart of the nation, but it’s also the heart of our region. Here in the Council chamber, we are a mere 10 miles from the D.C. border, where more than 700,000 people reside. These 700,000 individuals that live on the other side of Eastern and Western Avenues are our friends, family members, coworkers, and above all, fellow Americans,” County Council Member Evan Glass, who is sponsoring the county’s bill, said Tuesday.
Council President Sidney Katz said on Monday during a press conference that Montgomery County’s resolution probably “won’t change the world,” but still raises an important issue.
“It certainly brings to the forefront the discussion and lets people know that it’s not being forgotten,” he said.
Katz said he has family who lived in D.C. before it was represented by a delegate in Congress, starting in the 1970s.
“It was unbelievable that they had no representation in Congress,” he said.
Council Member Andrew Friedson, a co-sponsor, said in an interview Monday that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office asked the council last month to support the statehood effort with a resolution.
“We have a tremendous number of regional priorities that we share and work on together and they asked us to support them and we did so,” he said.
An email from Jerry Chapin, the associate director of the mayor’s Office of Federal and Regional Affairs, to Friedson’s office on Jan. 21 points out the regional impact that statehood would have.
“While this effort may be viewed as only benefiting D.C. residents, it has become clear that the activities of a progressive Congress would have a more equitable impact on the region which would now have two senators,” Chapin wrote.
Friedson on Monday noted that many Montgomery County residents work in D.C., and there are many federal agencies in Montgomery County that depend on funding from Congress. Having more representation on Capitol Hill, he said, would benefit everyone in the region, including Montgomery County.
“Representation matters and votes in Congress matter,” he said.
Two months ago, Friedson was the lone council member to abstain on a ceremonial resolution urging federal leaders to limit nuclear war. In explaining his vote on that legislation, he told Bethesda Beat that the issue had little relevance to Montgomery County.
“I didn’t run for the County Council to take a stand on foreign policy or nuclear war,” he said at the time.
Friedson said on Monday that the D.C. statehood resolution is in a different category than the nuclear war resolution. Statehood relates to regional priorities in which Montgomery County has a stake, such as federal funding for Metro, decisions by the Federal Aviation Administration on flight paths and other issues related to the federal government.
“Our ability to advocate for priorities in the region is directly affected by who is in Congress. We work with the Council of Governments, Fairfax County, Arlington [County], Howard [County], you name it … and they’re [D.C.] a partner of ours. And so I don’t see this as beyond the purview of the County Council,” Friedson said.
He added that, morally, statehood is also the right thing to do.
“I think it’s critical that everyone in our region have their voices heard. Currently, D.C. doesn’t have that ability,” he said.
The council is expected to vote on the resolution at its Feb. 25 meeting.
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org