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house Bill H.R. 51

Should D.C. Become the 51st State?

Argument in favor

District of Columbia residents deserve the same voting rights and representation in Congress as any other American living in one of the 50 states regardless of what the Constitution says. Denying D.C. residents the right to have senators and representatives in Congress is a violation of their democratic rights. As long as D.C. residents pay federal taxes and are subject to federal laws, they should get to enjoy the full benefits of statehood and representation in Congress.

Dorothy's Opinion
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04/22/2021
Definitely DC should be a state. Taxation without representation, what can be more unAmerican. Time to even up the population representation. If WY and the Dakotas are represented by Senators with their sparse population then DC absolutely should be as should Puerto Rico
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jimK's Opinion
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04/22/2021
The DC metro area represents more people than 27 of our states and an economy which is dominated by policies emanating from DC. The number of people within the corporate boundaries of DC are greater than two of our less populace states. As a government of, by and for the people (and not a government of, by, and for the area occupied by a State) the people of DC deserve representation. There is no Constitutional requirement to admit States in pairs to assure party equity nor that they be of any particular size. In fact, the framers opposed the whole notion of political parties which they viewed as factions that would exist to protect their factions instead of the country- and they were right. There are compelling reasons for DC to become a State and there are no compelling reasons for DC to not become a State.
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Chris's Opinion
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04/22/2021
The historical argument for the capital being in a non-state federal district was sound, however since that point things have changed a lot. The capital being located in a state doesn’t offer the advantages or favoritism now that it would have in the past. The population of the district has absolutely ballooned to the point it is larger than or on par with several states. The lack of proper representation for this large of a group in this nation is unacceptable. The really sad part is that this discussion is using history as a facade to hide the real argument. Two more (presumably blue) seats in the Senate. As someone who generally leans conservative, I say shame on anybody supporting this proposition under the guise of proper representation for DC just to get those seats, and shame on anyone using historical precedent against it with the goal of keeping those seats out. This isn’t a question of whether we add more seats likely to fall to one party or the other. This isn’t the 1800s. Stop allowing or disallowing statehood based on your own political agenda and pretending that makes you a patriot. Nearly 700,000 people live in DC. They deserve proper representation and the ability to legislate matters that fall to the states like anyone else, not live without proper representation controlled by a congress they get no say in. The fact we’re even having this debate speaks to how far we are from being the nation we claim to be.
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Argument opposed

The U.S. Constitution explicitly made D.C. a district, not a state. If D.C. residents want full representation in Congress they can move to nearby Maryland or Virginia to get it. Alternatively, Congress should pass legislation treating D.C. residents as Maryland residents for the purpose of representation in the U.S. House and Senate, or just give parts of D.C. that aren't federal buildings back to Maryland. Granting D.C. statehood is a ploy by Democrats because they expect they would win the two Senate seats and the House seat.

Phillip 's Opinion
···
04/22/2021
President George Washington chose the exact site along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, and the city was officially founded in 1790 after both Maryland and Virginia ceded land to this new “district,” to be distinct and distinguished from the rest of the states. Key wording CEDED meaning to yield or formally surrender to
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Justin's Opinion
···
04/22/2021
The underlying reason for this being on the docket is laughable. Funny how things like this pop up when it’s convenient for democrats. It is stated in our Constitution that DC is not a state. It was placed outside of any state as to keep it separate from governing powers within the state. Why should the core of our United States reside within a single state? DC represents ALL states. It is not equal to a state, and therefore should not be classified as one. That is my opinion.
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Stickyfingers's Opinion
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04/22/2021
No. Our founding fathers didn’t want it to be a State. There are too many political influences there that will disrupt our democracy.
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What is House Bill H.R. 51?

This bill — the Washington, D.C. Admission Act — would create a state known as the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth (after George Washington & Frederick Douglass) from the eight hometown wards of the District of Columbia. This 51st state wouldn’t have any jurisdiction over the federal territory or enclave consisting of the U.S. Capitol premises, principal federal monuments, federal buildings and grounds, the National Mall and other federal property; those would stay under federal jurisdiction.

In all respects, the new state of Washington, D.C. would be equal to all other states. Its residents would have the same citizenship rights as taxpaying Americans, including two senators and one House member to begin with.

Impact

D.C.; D.C. statehood; and the composition of the U.S. Congress.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 51

$0.00
A CBO cost estimate for this bill is not available. However, a CBO cost estimate for a similar bill in the 116th Congress (HR 5803) estimated that it would have no cost.

More Information

In-Depth: The District of Columbia’s non-voting delegate to Congress, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) reintroduced this bill from the 116th Congress to make the District of Columbia the 51st state. When she introduced this legislation in the 116th Congress, Holmes Norton said: 

“We are gratified by the overwhelming support from my Democratic colleagues as we seize this new moment for statehood and press our bill in the 116th Congress with unprecedented momentum. I am particularly grateful to Chairman Cummings for his support of H.R. 51 and his commitment to holding a hearing and markup in 2019, the first such House hearing or markup since 1993, when I got the first-ever House floor vote on it.  A hearing and markup will provide a prime opportunity to inform and remind Americans that over 700,000 of their fellow citizens who live in the nation’s capital are denied their basic democratic rights.”

In a video before the committee hearing on this bill in the 116th Congress (the first hearing on D.C. statehood in the House in over 28 years), Del. Holmes Norton released a video in which she said: 

“For 218 years, Washingtonians have lived in their nation’s capital – yet we are not equal. We pay the highest federal taxes per capita of any jurisdiction in the country, and our residents have served in all our country’s wars. But right now, the District of Columbia does not have full representation in the Senate or House, or the ability to govern ourselves without congressional interference. That’s wrong – and it needs to change. [This bill] would make DC’s 700,000 taxpaying residents equal to other Americans.”

Key Democratic leaders have expressed support for D.C. statehood. Upon this bill’s introduction in the 116th Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) strongly endorsed D.C. statehood. Similarly, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who cosponsored this bill in the 116th Congress, endorsed D.C. statehood in a Washington Post op-ed reversing his long-held position on the issue. Finally, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) released a sweeping voter rights proposal in March 2019 which included support for D.C. statehood.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser believes that Democratic control of the Senate could make D.C. statehood a policy priority for the Biden administration. In comments on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe” on January 6, 2021, she predicted that D.C. statehood “could become a 100-day priority, D.C. statehood, for our next president” should Democrats win the Senate, as they did when Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock won a pair of Georgia Senate runoffs on January 5, 2021.

Rep. Hoyer’s announcement of his support was significant, as he’d been the last Democratic lawmaker in the capital region to oppose full statehood for the District (the other holdout, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), announced his support in February 2019). Previously, Rep. Hoyer supported full voting rights, but not statehood, for the District. He argued that it would be too complicated to delineate state versus federal responsibilities if Congress were to create a state from most of what’s currently the District of Columbia.

In 2016, 86% of D.C. voters voted in favor of statehood. Maryland and Virginia residents have expressed concerns that if the District achieves statehood, it could impose a commuter tax on suburban residents who work in the capital. 

Those who oppose D.C. statehood marshal a range of arguments to make their case. Firstly, they contend that it goes against the Founding Fathers’ intent given that Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution establishes it as a district rather than a state. In Federalist 43, James Madison warned of the danger of bringing “imputation of awe or influence” onto the new national government by locating it within a state. He also advocated that the national government, not a state government, should have authority over the national capital. 

Another Founder, Thomas Jefferson, considered the new nation’s future capital a matter of such great importance he traded away his opposition to Hamilton’s proposal that the federal government assume state debts in order to assure that the capital would be moved from New York to his own native Virginia in the Compromise of 1790. This ensured that the capital would be located in the South, away from financial interests in the Northeast — which both Jefferson and Madison wanted.

Additionally, opponents of D.C. statehood argue that it would require a constitutional amendment to change Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, so Congress can’t change the District’s status via simple legislation. To this point, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) argues that a sincere effort to grant D.C. statehood would need to be paired with a proposal to repeal the 23rd Amendment (which gives D.C. residents the right to vote for representatives in the Electoral College) and replace it with a 28th Amendment. 

Opponents of D.C. statehood also note that all of what currently comprises the District of Columbia used to be part of Maryland, and advocate that the lands which aren't part of the federal government be retroceded (e.g. given back) to the state of Maryland or residents of the District be given voting rights in Maryland. Retrocession could prove problematic, as a constitutional amendment could be required to retrocede those portions of D.C. to Maryland if Maryland doesn't want to absorb those lands, and the 23rd Amendment would need to be repealed because the remaining parts of the District would still be entitled to Electoral College votes. On the other hand, Congress could stipulate that D.C. residents be treated as Maryland residents for the purpose of congressional representation without a constitutional amendment, although a repeal of the 23rd Amendment could be required in that case.

The Republican Party opposes D.C. statehood for reasons that are not only constitutional, but political, as granting the District statehood would likely net Democrats — who enjoy strong support in the District — two Senators and one voting representative. When the House in the 116th Congress appeared poised to approve this bill, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) dismissed the idea of statehood for D.C. as “full-bore socialism.”

The Trump White House issued a veto threat for this legislation in the 116th Congress, writing:

"This bill is unconstitutional because the retrocession of portions of the District of Columbia into a separate state would violate the 23rd Amendment. This Amendment, ratified in 1961, contemplates a District of the proportions then in effect as a basis for the allocation of presidential electors. If, as H.R. 51 proposes, the District were reduced to a small jurisdiction made up of essentially only Federal buildings, the 23rd Amendment would give the tiny population of individuals living within those borders the same voting power in the Electoral College as the smallest state in the country. The scheme proposed in H.R. 51 would likely also require Maryland to agree separately that a portion of the land it originally ceded to form the District could now become a separate State. Article IV, Section 3, of the Constitution requires a State's consent before a new State is formed from land within its borders. In addition, H.R. 51 would create an opportunity for a new State of Washington, D.C. to dominate the capital and render those who meet there beholden to its interests, rather than the interests of the Nation as a whole. As outlined in Federalist 43, the Framers feared that the seat of government confined to the jurisdiction of a single State would not be sufficiently independent and might, therefore, prefer local instead of national interests. Even though H.R. 51 contemplates continued congressional authority over the technical seat of government, its reduction of that area to such a small size would impose serious practical limitations on that authority. Because the new State would entirely surround the reserved capital region of certain Federal buildings and monuments, a State of Washington, D.C. could achieve outsized authority in some respects as compared to the other 50 States. For example, given its small size, the Federal capital would depend entirely on the new State of Washington, D.C. for most, if not all, of the necessary modern services, which directly implicates a concern that troubled the Framers. The constitutional vision of our Framers for our capital was sound. We should not seek to undermine that vision through unconstitutional means like H.R. 51."

In the 117th Congress, this legislation has 202 Democratic House cosponsors. Companion Senate legislation had yet to be introduced as of January 6, 2021.

In the 116th Congress, this legislation passed the House by a 232-180 vote with the support of  227 Democratic House cosponsors. All but one Democrat voted in favor of this bill, while 178 Republicans voted against it and 19 abstained. Its Senate companion in the 116th Congress, sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), had  42 Senate cosponsors, all of whom caucused as Democrats. D.C. Statehood Coalition, the League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), and others supported this legislation. 

In the 115th Congress, this legislation had 181 Democratic House cosponsors. Its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Carper, had 30 Senate cosponsors, including 29 Democrats and one Independent. Neither bill received a committee vote last Congress.


Of Note: The D.C. municipal government has had certain powers devolved to it from Congress in 1973. The District of Columbia Home Rule Act reorganized D.C.’s government structure, provided a charter for local government in D.C., delegated some legislative powers to the local government, and implemented recommendations from the Commission on the Organization of the Government of the District of Columbia. This allowed D.C. to elect its own mayor and legislature. 

The last time D.C. statehood was seriously considered in Congress in 1993, it was defeated by a large margin on the House floor. Nearly half the Democratic conference joined Republicans in voting against it. At the time, former high-ranking Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) argued against D.C. statehood, saying, “No citizen of Washington is chained to the pillars of the U.S. Capitol. They can leave any time they want.”

Since 1993, Democrats as a party have come to support D.C. statehood, with the party symbolically voting to endorse the idea in March 2019. Additionally, every Democratic presidential candidate has endorsed statehood. 

Beyond the constitutional & partisan issues raised by the prospect of D.C. statehood, opponents of the statehood push also argue that it’s too reliant on federal funds to be a state, and that the city would be unable to responsibly manage itself as a state due to a history of lurid corruption scandals. 

Among D.C.’s high-profile corruption scandals include several involving Mayor Marion Barry, of whom The Washington Post once wrote, “to understand the District of Columbia, one must understand Marion Barry.” Barry served three terms as D.C. mayor from 1979 to 1991, when he was caught on video using cocaine and sent to federal prison for six months. After his release, he was then re-elected to the D.C. Council for Ward 8 (one of the District’s grittiest areas) in 1992 and eventually re-elected as mayor in 1995 with 56% of the vote. Barry’s third mayoral term was marked by open talk of womanizing, drinking, and drug use. Several of his top aides were convicted of corruption, as well. 

After declining to seek a fourth term, Barry later returned for a second stint on the council, which featured him pleading guilty to federal and local tax charges; his being unanimously stripped of committee assignments by other councilmembers after he was found to have steered contracts to his then-girlfriend; and Barry making controversial remarks about Asian-Americans, which he apologized for but used an anti-Polish slur in the process.

With regard to the questions of population and over reliance on federal funds (which are also arguments opponents of D.C. statehood cite in their opposition), it’s worth noting in response to these arguments that D.C. has more residents than either Vermont or Wyoming. Additionally, with regard to D.C.’s finances, 21 states relied more on federal funding as a percentage of their state budgets in comparison to the District in 2013.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang (with Eric Revell)

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Xavier_Ascanio)

AKA

Washington, D.C. Admission Act

Official Title

To provide for the admission of the State of Washington, D.C. into the Union.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house Passed April 22nd, 2021
    Roll Call Vote 216 Yea / 208 Nay
      house Committees
      The Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties
      Committee on Armed Services
      Energy
      Health
      Committee on Energy and Commerce
      Committee on the Judiciary
      Committee on Oversight and Reform
      Committee on Rules
    IntroducedJanuary 4th, 2021

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    Definitely DC should be a state. Taxation without representation, what can be more unAmerican. Time to even up the population representation. If WY and the Dakotas are represented by Senators with their sparse population then DC absolutely should be as should Puerto Rico
    Like (90)
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    President George Washington chose the exact site along the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, and the city was officially founded in 1790 after both Maryland and Virginia ceded land to this new “district,” to be distinct and distinguished from the rest of the states. Key wording CEDED meaning to yield or formally surrender to
    Like (64)
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    The DC metro area represents more people than 27 of our states and an economy which is dominated by policies emanating from DC. The number of people within the corporate boundaries of DC are greater than two of our less populace states. As a government of, by and for the people (and not a government of, by, and for the area occupied by a State) the people of DC deserve representation. There is no Constitutional requirement to admit States in pairs to assure party equity nor that they be of any particular size. In fact, the framers opposed the whole notion of political parties which they viewed as factions that would exist to protect their factions instead of the country- and they were right. There are compelling reasons for DC to become a State and there are no compelling reasons for DC to not become a State.
    Like (69)
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    The historical argument for the capital being in a non-state federal district was sound, however since that point things have changed a lot. The capital being located in a state doesn’t offer the advantages or favoritism now that it would have in the past. The population of the district has absolutely ballooned to the point it is larger than or on par with several states. The lack of proper representation for this large of a group in this nation is unacceptable. The really sad part is that this discussion is using history as a facade to hide the real argument. Two more (presumably blue) seats in the Senate. As someone who generally leans conservative, I say shame on anybody supporting this proposition under the guise of proper representation for DC just to get those seats, and shame on anyone using historical precedent against it with the goal of keeping those seats out. This isn’t a question of whether we add more seats likely to fall to one party or the other. This isn’t the 1800s. Stop allowing or disallowing statehood based on your own political agenda and pretending that makes you a patriot. Nearly 700,000 people live in DC. They deserve proper representation and the ability to legislate matters that fall to the states like anyone else, not live without proper representation controlled by a congress they get no say in. The fact we’re even having this debate speaks to how far we are from being the nation we claim to be.
    Like (46)
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    NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION Followed by: Puerto Rico Guam and the Marianas Islands The US Virgin Islands They all have more area and more population than some current states. It’s AWEFUL how US CITIZENS that live in the islands are ignored!!!
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    The underlying reason for this being on the docket is laughable. Funny how things like this pop up when it’s convenient for democrats. It is stated in our Constitution that DC is not a state. It was placed outside of any state as to keep it separate from governing powers within the state. Why should the core of our United States reside within a single state? DC represents ALL states. It is not equal to a state, and therefore should not be classified as one. That is my opinion.
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    No. Our founding fathers didn’t want it to be a State. There are too many political influences there that will disrupt our democracy.
    Like (34)
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    DC has a population larger than Vermont or Wyoming, and similar to Alaska & Delaware, and pays more taxes than residents in 22 states and more tax per capita than any other state. With population comes responsibilities for both local services (K-12 schools, police, fire) and state (motor vehicle services, Medicaid and mental health services, higher education). DC also has the responsibility to assist in protection of the Capitol area, something it could not do effectively during the Capitol Riot 1-6-21 as its not a state so it could not call in the the national guard so is a perfect example why DC needs to be a state so they have the benefits (representation in Congress, control over calling the National Guard, budget control, etc) as well as the responsibilities (taxation). The proposal includes a provision that carves out an area that remains federal to comply with constitutional requirements, “2-mile radius to be called the National Capital Service Area, which includes federal buildings, such as the White House, Capitol, Supreme Court and the National Mall. This becomes the seat of the federal government as defined in the Constitution.” Proposed retrosession does not provide full representation as 2 senatorial seats are denied. https://statehood.dc.gov/page/why-statehood-dc https://www.brookings.edu/testimonies/if-the-district-of-columbia-becomes-a-state-fiscal-implications/
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    No taxation without representation! Make DC a state!
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    They pay taxes, they deserve representation.
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    Residents of the District of Columbia deserve full representation, especially since they pay federal taxes just like everyone else. Since there are more residents of DC now than several other states, DC deserves to have 2 Senators as well as House representatives. I know there will be talk about how Constitutional this is, but if you aren't willing to make them a state, then devise some other structure to provide full representation in Congress, or allow them to vote and be represented by Senators from some smaller state. The way it's set up now is not fair to the citizens of DC, no matter what they look like or who they vote for. Equality for all Americans, even those living in districts and territories.
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    Yes, yes, yes. And, Puerto Rico and all the American territories.
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    Vermont and Wyoming each have fewer residents than D.C., but D.C. still has less voice than either in Congress. It’s time to change that. Vote for D.C. statehood.
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    People live in D.C. They pay their taxes. They deserve representation.
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    The original reasons for not making DC a state were sound and still valid. If representation is the issue/concern, allow the residents to vote with Maryland and thereby, solving the issue.
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    Taxation without representation is tyranny!
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    We do not need a 51 state this is only deploy by the Democrats to have more control in the house and the Senate . Washington DC belongs to the American people of The United States.
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    Yes and Puerto Rico the 52. This way you don’t have a president or congress doing theatrics with military and National guard as bit players and props, plus corporations using the location as a political and hiding plate form.
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    [Revised Comment] I fully & strongly support Statehood for Washington, D. C. Here is a compelling presentation on the dc.gov web site “Why Statehood for DC | Statehood” https://statehood.dc.gov/page/why-statehood-dc Washington DC is far more prosperous than most Red States! See the addendum below for information on the vibrant economy of Washington, D. C. (None of this should surprize anyone who has visited the DC area for business or pleasure.) Historical Background https://www.history.com/news/washington-dc-statehood-reconstruction From the article: "Since 1980, D.C. has advocated for congressional representation through statehood. Activists and politicians have connected D.C.’s fight for representation to similar struggles in the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. Like D.C. residents in 1960, the U.S. citizens who live in these territories pay federal taxes but have no voting members in Congress and can’t vote for president. "Many statehood advocates have pointed out that ***there is no constitutional reason that D.C., a 68-square-mile city with a larger population than Wyoming and Vermont, cannot become a state.***" More objective information to consider: "Statehood movement in the District of Columbia "Movement to make the United States capital a state." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statehood_movement_in_the_District_of_Columbia?wprov=sfti1 From the Wikipedia article: "The local D.C. Republican Party has been a long-standing supporter of voting rights for the District of Columbia." (It’s pretty pathetic that the current iteration of Republican / Conservative Posters fear their political views have NOTHING to offer the people of DC. They are correct. That should be taken to heart.) ADDENDUM The Economics of Washington, D. C. By Sector and approximate number of people employed in each sector. * Employees of the Federal Government. 200,000 * Providers of Professional Services. 125,00 * Hospitality and Tourism. 75,000 * Health Care & Life Sciences. 59,000 * Higher Education. 44,000 * Real Estate and Construction. N/A * Retail. 23,000 * Technology. 31,000 * Media and Communications. 23,000 * Creative Arts. 124,000 (The Restaurant Industry is included here.) Also it is not clear what category public services are in: Police, Fire, Public Education, Sanitation, etc. We don't see the plumbers, carpenters, and electricians. Nor do we see the numbers for child care, day care, senior care, private education, gyms, personal trainers, masseurs, yoga, etc. The income breakdown shows that Washington DC is more prosperous than many areas. For the numbers and explanations see DC Economic Strategy https://dceconomicstrategy.com
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    It’s TIME!
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