Several Republican senators blasted the House-passed Washington, DC statehood bill on Wednesday, calling the legislation unconstitutional and a “Democratic power grab” that would “empower the most radical agenda in modern American politics.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina joined GOP Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, all up for reelection this year, to hold a press conference detailing their opposition to the measure.
“This is about expanding the Senate map to accommodate the most radical agenda that I’ve ever seen since I’ve been up here,” Graham said.
The South Carolina senator also argued it’s a “bad deal” for his state and would dilute its power in the Senate.
Their remarks came days after House Democrats passed legislation making Washington, DC, a state, by a vote of 232-180. The White House also said last week that President Donald Trump would veto the bill if it came to his desk.
Daines also told reporters that if they go outside of DC, where he claimed the “real people are at,” Americans overwhelmingly oppose DC statehood.
“If you get outside the Beltway and craziness here of Washington, DC, the American people agree with us,” the Montana Republican said. “Sometimes I think it’s important for senators, congressmen, in fact, most the time, get out of this city, go out to where the real people are at across our country and ask them what they think.”
As of last June, DC had more than 705,000 residents, according to the US Census Bureau. Asked by a reporter to clarify what he meant by the residents of DC not being “real people,” Daines said. “My point is, the bubble right here, that everybody lives in,” gesturing to reporters and lawmakers around the briefing room.
Pressed further, Daines explained, “I’m just suggesting that perhaps there’s a different view outside of this city, than there is inside this city.”
The senators also said the statehood legislation is unconstitutional. The bill would shrink the federal capital to a small area encompassing the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court, and other federal buildings along the National Mall. The rest of DC would be admitted as a state, renamed the Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, after abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
Proponents say the bill’s strategy of redesigning the capital’s bounds would sidestep constitutional concerns, and that it would only need to be approved by Congress and signed by the President to be effective. Republicans argue otherwise, saying a constitutional amendment would be needed.
Cotton called for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a vote on DC statehood, something McConnell has previously indicated he would not do, because “we should know where every senator wants to stand.”
And Graham said Republicans are “gonna fight back.”
“There’s nothing these people won’t do to change the face of the country, and we’re tired of it,” Graham said. “We’re gonna to fight back. We fought back with (the nomination of now Supreme Court Justice Brett) Kavanaugh. We’re gonna make sure Nancy Pelosi and all those who are driving her do not win the day.”
CNN’s Ted Barrett contributed to this report.