The shadow senator for Washington, D.C., who is less a senator and more a lobbyist to Congress, is in Europe this week trying to get the city added to a list of unrepresented nations.
Paul Strauss, one of two D.C. shadow senators who are tasked with pushing the cause of D.C. statehood, left for Brussels on Wednesday, to petition The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) for inclusion in their group, The Washington Post reports.
The UNPO represents indigenous people and minorities around the world that are not adequately represented in their country’s government.
Some of their members include the Kurds in Iran, who are routinely imprisoned and executed by the Iranian government, and the Hmong in Vietnam, who were on the losing side of the Vietnam War and still face state-sanctioned violence and discrimination.
Strauss thinks the fact that the District of Columbia doesn’t have a voting representative in Congress puts it in line with these people from across the world.
“At first blush, we may not really be their typical candidate, so I have to make a case to this group that our territory meets the criteria for membership,” Strauss told the Post.
Membership in the group is restricted to nations and peoples who are not adequately represented in the United Nations. According to the UNPO by-laws, prospective participants must be “bound to a common heritage which can be historical, racial, ethnic, religious or territorial.”
Strauss believes the district would be a good candidate for UNPO inclusion because D.C.’s lack of statehood disenfranchises it on an international scale.
Residents of D.C. have to pay federal income taxes but do not have a vote in Congress. Additionally, Congress gets final say on the district’s budget and any laws passed in the city.
The district was created this way to avoid any state having undue influence in Congress. The Constitution explicitly calls for the district to be controlled by Congress.
“The Congress shall have Power To … exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States,” it reads.
Despite the constitutional requirement, D.C. statehood activists have been amping up their calls for an independent state as of late.
In June, Democrats in both the House and Senate introduced legislation that would make D.C. the 51st state.
If the legislation were to succeed, The District of Columbia would be limited to the federal monuments, the White House, the Capitol Complex, the Supreme Court Building and a handful of office buildings surrounding the National Mall.
Aside from a few military properties sprinkled throughout the city and any bridge or tunnel that connects the city with Virginia, which will still be owned by the federal government, the rest of the land now considered the District of Columbia would then become New Columbia.
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