Sen. Tom Cotton argued on Thursday that Wyoming, which he called a “well-rounded working-class state,” is more deserving of statehood than the District of Columbia, even though the nation’s capital has more citizens.
“Wyoming is smaller than Washington by population, but it has three times as many workers in mining, logging and construction, and 10 times as many workers in manufacturing. In other words, Wyoming is a well-rounded working-class state. A new state of Washington would not be,” the Arkansas Republican said on the Senate floor.
Advocates of DC statehood point to the fact that residents pay taxes to the federal government but don’t have representation in the US Senate and only have one non-voting delegate representing them in the US House. But Cotton argued that Democrats are only pushing for DC statehood so they can “have two new Democratic senators in perpetuity” and to “rig the rule of our democracy.”
Partisanship has long been a central reason for Republican opposition to DC statehood, as they frequently point to the likelihood that Democrats would pick up two additional US senators. But Cotton’s comments also underscore the economic, regional and racial divides that increasingly make up both parties.
Arguing against a Democrat-backed House bill that would admit DC as a state, Cotton jokingly questioned what “vital” areas of industry for DC would be: “Lobbying? Bureaucracy? Give me a break.”
He said that DC as a state would be “nothing more than an appendage of the federal government.”
The senator also claimed that the largest group of workers in the District “by far” are “bureaucrats and other white-collar professionals.” It’s true that nearly a quarter of DC’s workforce is part of the federal government, according to statistics provided by the city’s Department of Employment Services, though the workforces of many other US cities are predominantly “white-collar.”
CNN has reached out to DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office for comment.
Cotton specifically pointed to DC’s handling of vandalism and looting that occurred early this month during some of the protests, arguing the destruction would be worse had federal law enforcement not stepped in.
“Would you trust Mayor Bowser to keep Washington safe if she were given the powers of a governor? Would you trust Marion Barry?” Cotton said of the current mayor and the late former mayor, both Black Democratic politicians.
Democrats swiftly criticized Cotton.
“DC residents are Americans who pay federal taxes and they shouldn’t get screwed just because Tom Cotton doesn’t think they have the right jobs,” Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii wrote on Twitter.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut tweeted that Cotton’s remarks amounted to “job shaming.”
“Awesome! I’m in. Great idea. This CANNOT go wrong. Let’s rank the virtue of every profession and if your state has too many workers in the bottom 20% you get kicked out of America,” Murphy tweeted.
House Democrats passed a bill approving DC statehood on Friday, making history as the first time that a branch of Congress advanced a bill on the District’s statehood.
The legislation, however, is unlikely to gain traction in the GOP-controlled Senate and the White House said this week that President Donald Trump would veto the bill if it were sent to his desk.