WASHINGTON — The campaign to make the District of Columbia the nation's 51st state will get a hearing on Capitol Hill next week, the first in more than two decades.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., will hear testimony Monday on the New Columbia Admission Act of 2013. The bill would shrink the federal district to a small area surrounding the White House and Capitol and admit the remainder of the District as the 51st state.
Carper introduced the statehood bill last year and had pledged to activists that he would hold a hearing.
With the 113th Congress dwindling, some advocates were getting anxious about whether the hearing would happen.
News of the hearing, the first held since a statehood bill failed on the House floor in 1993, was praised by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.
In a statement, she said the event — along with President Barack Obama's recent pro-statehood comments — "demonstrates the growing strength of equal citizenship for D.C. residents."
The hearing alone is far from a guarantee that the statehood bill will progress on Capitol Hill this year — or any year in the near future.
The idea of admitting the overwhelmingly Democratic District as a state, entitled to a House representative and two senators in perpetuity, remains anathema to congressional Republicans, and many issues that boast a much greater degree of bipartisan support remain mired in partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill.
With no Republican co-sponsors for either the Senate bill or its House companion, the likelihood that D.C. statehood would become law is virtually nil.
But a hearing can bring attention to the bill and put it in a better position to move forward in the future, said activist Josh Burch, who has spent countless hours canvassing congressional offices to gather co-sponsors for the statehood bills. (There are 16 in the Senate, 91 in the House.)
"Staffers have continually said: You need to have a hearing if you want my boss to focus on this issue," said Burch, one of the leaders of Neighbors United for D.C. Statehood. "It is one of the tools in the toolbox we can use to bring attention to this matter."
Norton will testify at the hearing, said her spokesman, Jonathan Amar.
A spokeswoman for Carper did not immediately return a message inquiring about other witnesses and whether he intends to send the bill to a committee vote.