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Rep. Rashida Tlaib Links Opposing D.C. Statehood to Slavery: ‘Enjoy This Authoritarian System’

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Michigan Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib compared the opposition to D.C. statehood with the slave-owning framers of the U.S. Constitution.

In a Monday meeting with the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Tlaib slammed conservatives who oppose efforts to give Washington D.C. political representation in the national House and Senate.

Specifically, she named the Heritage Foundation, a major conservative think tank that has argued that D.C. cannot get congressional representation without Congress passing a constitutional amendment.

“If you oppose D.C. statehood, you support taxation without representation,” Tlaib said. “In opposing D.C. statehood… these representatives and their backers over at the Heritage Foundation—that’s right—are telling over 700,000 Americans to sit down, shut up, and enjoy this authoritarian system implemented by a bunch of elites who thought it was OK to enslave people for their selfish monetary gain hundreds of years ago.”

Her comment was a reference to the fact that many of the Constitution’s 19th-century authors owned slaves. The authors included an article in the Constitution forbidding the country’s capital from becoming a state.

In a Monday committee meeting, Michigan Democratic Representative Rashida Tlaib tied opposition to D.C. statehood to the slave-owning authors of the U.S. Constitution. In this image, Tlaib questions US Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, July 18, 2019.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

However, statehood proponents and Democrats say that the nearly 700,000 residents of the nation’s capital deserve congressional representation. The residents pay federal taxes, but have no say in how those taxes are spent, proponents argue.

Proponents also note that the states of Wyoming and Vermont have smaller populations than D.C., but both each have two senators and one representative in Congress.

Last year, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser argued that withholding representation from the capital effectively removes its population from having a say in policy decisions that directly affect them.

“It is no coincidence that Washington—affectionately known as Chocolate City—is also the only capital of a democratic nation that denies its residents a vote in the federal legislature,” Bowser wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece last June. “To think these two truths are not related is to be willfully ignorant of our nation’s history.”

The district is 45 percent Black and overwhelmingly Democratic. Black people flocked to the region after Congress abolished slavery in the capital during the Civil War.

Though D.C. currently has an elected City Council that can pass municipal laws, Congress can block the laws’ funding or overturn them completely. Congress has done so to stop city measures in favor of cannabis reform, abortion access, needle exchanges and same-sex partner benefits, according to Slate.

Republicans and other conservatives oppose D.C. statehood under the expectation that the region would elect more Democratic lawmakers to Congress, potentially weakening GOP influence in the national legislature.

Former President Donald Trump told The New York Post in May 2020 that Republicans would be “very, very stupid” to allow it.

“D.C. will never be a state,” Trump told the outlet. “You mean District of Columbia, a state? Why? So we can have two more Democratic—Democrat senators and five more congressmen? No, thank you. That’ll never happen.”

Last September, now-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the idea as part of the Democratic Party’s “radical” agenda.

Opponents of D.C. statehood claim that a new Constitutional amendment would be needed for it. However, proponents say that the region could achieve statehood by shrinking the district’s size and then granting statehood to the remaining area. Doing this would only require Congressional approval rather than a new Constitutional amendment, they argue.

The Liberty Buzz contacted Tlaib’s office for comment.

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