Sen. Ron Johnson rails against DC statehood as power grab for the 'elite group of people here'
Fox News congressional correspondent Chad Pergram discusses the latest from Capitol Hill on ‘America Reports’
Sen. Ron Johnson seemed to suggest that one reason why Washington, D.C., residents shouldn't be granted statehood is because they are too "elite" – a point that was quickly rebuked by Mayor Muriel Bowser during a Senate hearing Tuesday on whether to make D.C. the 51st state.
In addition to the constitutional concerns and political ramifications of admitting a new overwhelmingly blue state to the union, Johnson implied the Senate should be wary of Washingtonians who "have a vested interest in the power of the federal government."
"This seems like just a naked power grab," Johnson, R-Wis., said Tuesday of D.C.'s longtime quest to become a state.
"This an elite group of people here that have a vested interest in the power of the federal government," Johnson added. "And I think that is one of the issues that we need to address when we're talking about whether we should grant statehood in the District Columbia."
Johnson argued that while there is poverty in areas of D.C., the district is "not made of many disadvantaged individuals because the average median income of the District Columbia is $92,000. That compares to the average median income nationally of $65,000."
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 16: Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., talks with a reporter before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing titled Examining Irregularities in the 2020 Election, in Dirksen Building on Wednesday, December 16, 2020. Johnson spoke out Tuesday against D.C. statehood. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Johnson also pointed out that Washingtonians have more education compared to other corners of America, saying "34% of the residents in the District of Columbia that are 25 years or older have some kind of postgraduate or professional degree, versus a 13% of the rest of the population."
Some liberal politicians who have argued that Republicans are opposing D.C. statehood as the latest form of voter suppression against oppressed populations. Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., caused a stir on the House floor in April when he accused certain Republicans of opposing the 51st state because the district wasn't White enough in their minds to qualify for self-rule.
Bowser, a strong statehood proponent, painted Washingtonians as victims of a historic human rights violation for not have voting representation in Congress as she asked the Senate to grant "full democracy" to the "700,000 predominately Black and Brown Americans" living in the nation's capital.
"[T]he disenfranchisement of Washingtonians is the most glaring civil rights and voting rights issue of our time," Bowser said.
Johnson tried to press Bowser Tuesday during the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee hearing about the damage from Black Lives Matter protests during the summer, but Bowser used the opportunity to refute Johnson's "elite" characterization of the district.
D.C.'s 700,000 residents are "hard-working individuals who educate their children, start businesses and work in the district," Bowser said. "It would be incorrect to say that D.C. residents have more of an interest in the federal government than other Americans."
The House already passed statehood for D.C. but the quest to become the 51st state is much harder in the Senate with Democrats controlling just 50 seats when 60 votes are needed to advance the legislation that Republicans overwhelmingly oppose.
UNITED STATES - JUNE 16: District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks during a news conference on D.C. statehood in the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, June 16, 2020. Bowser told the Senate Tuesday, June 22, 2021, during testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs that "the disenfranchisement of Washingtonians is the most glaring civil rights and voting rights issue of our time." (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Republicans have blasted the statehood plan as a Democratic power play to add two more Democratic senators to the Senate. They've also raised legal and 23rd Amendment concerns arguing that since the federal enclave's establishment is constitutionally based, any change to the district must come in the form of a constitutional amendment – not legislation from Congress.
Senate Democrats and President Biden have backed the D.C. statehood effort, however, saying D.C. should no longer be subjected to second-class status of having no voting members in the House or Senate and no full control over local affairs.
"This is a wrong that needs to be righted," said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the sponsor of the statehood bill.