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Today’s a big day for proponents of D.C. statehood, though probably not big enough to make D.C. an actual state.

Sen. Tom Carper of Deleware, the Democratic chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, called a hearing for today on the implications of granting D.C. statehood—the first such hearing in more than 20 years.  Carper is the sponsor of Senate legislation that would make D.C. the 51st state.

For now, though, the likelihood that Carper’s New Columbia Admission Act will get much more than today’s hearing is low. President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have both expressed some level of support for statehood, but the bill would still need approval from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. If D.C. became a full-fledged state, that would mean two new U.S. senators and a new representative—-and likely all would be Democrats.

As the Washington Post noted today, it’s generous to even call today’s hearing a hearing, since it’s unclear how many of the statehood bill’s 17 Democratic co-sponsors will show up today, let alone how many Republicans.

In his prepared opening remarks, Sen. Carper warned that advocates should keep their expectations low, according to the Post. Even Carper doesn’t think the D.C. mayor’s title will change to governor anytime soon, or that Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton will get a vote in Congress.

Still, in her prepared testimony, Norton called the hearing “the most important vehicle afforded by Congress to educate Members and the public and to signal that the matter constitutes a serious national concern that should move to passage.

Our residents are grateful for today’s hearing even though they doubt statehood will come tomorrow,” her testimony reads. “The considerable appreciation in the District for this hearing comes because residents know that a hearing is a significant and necessary step in putting an issue on the congressional agenda.”

In addition to Norton, Gray and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson will testify. These three witnesses will be grouped together in the first panel. 

The second panel includes:

  • Viet D. Dinh, professor at Georgetown University
  • Dr. Alice M Rivlin, Brookings Institute
  • Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
  • Roger Pilon, Cato Institute
  • Paul Strauss, D.C. shadow senator
  • Michael D. Brown, D.C. shadow senator

Today’s hearing starts at 3 p.m. and will be streamed here.

Photo by Mr. T in D.C. via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0