WASHINGTON, D.C. – Residents of the nation’s capital rejoiced Friday as Congress passed landmark legislation effectively granting the District of Columbia statehood. “This is a long-awaited victory for the District,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser told reporters on the steps of the Capitol Building following the vote. “The people of Washington, D.C. are finally able to have their voice heard.”
Historically, Washington, D.C. was a federal district, rather than a state, and thus fell under jurisdiction of Congress which, until Friday, held total control over the city’s local affairs. Apart from a delegate with no ability to vote on the House floor, D.C. residents were the only Americans with no representation in Congress.
Effective January 1, 2016, D.C.’s roughly 658,000 inhabitants will, for the first time in American history, be granted that right as they become residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia. “Washington, D.C. is and always will be the nation’s capital,” Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
The border expansion comes as a big win for Virginia, which is expected to reap huge economic rewards with the introduction of the federal government inside its borders. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan called the legislation “unconstitutional” and said Maryland, with the support of Massachusetts, Wyoming, Montana, and Texas, will appeal the decision. “This was a hastily made and, quite frankly, idiotic move on the part of Congress,” Governor Hogan said. “At no point did Congress consider the economical and political implications this has on Maryland, or the rest of the country for that matter.”
Meanwhile, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe praised the decision, telling D.C. residents, “Virginia welcomes you with open arms.” Although D.C. will remain the U.S. capital, starting January 1st, it will be susceptible to Virginia law. That means Initiative 71, which allows for the limited possession and cultivation of marijuana, will no longer apply. Further, residents of the District will be allowed to purchase high capacity magazines and assault weapons, which are legal to own under Virginia law.
President Obama, speaking from the Rose Garden Friday, applauded the decision, calling the vote “a step in the right direction.” The President, flanked by Governor McAuliffe and Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine respectively, said, “As the first established colony of the original thirteen, it’s only right that Virginia represent the nation as our Capitol State.”