Last Week Tonight
continued their pattern of drawing attention to important issues this past Sunday. Following up on their episode about U.S. Territories, Oliver focused on another group of citizens denied adequate representation in Congress - residents of Washington D.C.
America has the distinction of being the only democracy in the world that denies residents of its capital a vote
in Congress. Residents are allowed to elect a representative, but that representative is largely symbolic. He or she is prohibited from voting on issues like taxation, election reform, or whether or not the country goes to war.Oliver called it "pretend power" likening it to a "child watching 'Dora the Explorer'". Unlike every other city in America, Congress also has final say over the laws the city passes and controls the city's budget. Even the Dalai Lama has commented on the topic, calling it "quite strange" and in need of change.
Congress' control over city legislation has had some major consequences for the city. While Congress does generally approve just about everything, they often remove funding for undesirable aspects, which can dramatically effect the results. DC has a diverse population and is generally speaking, quite liberal. As the segment points out, Congress is neither of those things. Consequently, what Congress wants for the city and what the residents want for the city aren't always the same thing. Oliver cited a needle exchange program blocked by Congress because of funding issues for nearly 10 years. The program could have saved countless lives were it passed earlier and was a proven success once implemented.
Current representative Eleanor Holmes Norton has introduced multiple bills over the past 20 years in an effort to get DC statehood, or at least a vote in Congress. Despite passionately defending these bills, none have passed. DC came closest to statehood last in 2009, but the bill failed after the Senate attached a rider removing all of DC's gun control laws.
Oliver used the segment to highlight the way politicians use DC - sometimes treating the residents as children in need of parental guidance and other times using their rights as bargaining chips in other political battles.
You may have been a taught a 50 States song when you were in elementary school. And what would happen to that song if Washington DC was added as a state? John Oliver has you covered! Check out the newly rewritten 51 States song at the end of the clip!
Watch the segment below and let us know what you think in the comments. Should Washington DC be entitled to statehood?