While the District prepares for the U.S. House to hold hearings on statehood for the first time in decades, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office is clarifying comments he made on Fox News that appeared to brand the push for a 51st state as "socialist."
Speaking to Laura Ingraham in a Fox News interview on June 14, McConnell spoke about his opposition to statehood for either Washington, D.C., or Puerto Rico, saying the push is part of a larger effort by House Democrats to pass "socialist" policies like the Green New Deal and Medicare-for-all.
"They plan to make the District of Columbia a state — that would give them two new Democratic senators — Puerto Rico a state, [that] would give them two more new Democratic senators," McConnell said. "This is full bore socialism on the march in the House."
But McConnell's office sought to clarify the comments on Tuesday, after social media backlash over McConnell's bashing of the yearslong efforts to give the District and Puerto Rico full voting representation in the federal government, The Washington Post first reported.
An aide to McConnell confirmed to News4 that the majority leader did not intend to brand the statehood effort as a socialist move, but instead wanted to refer to it as an example of government overreach by Democrats.
The push for D.C. statehood has picked up momentum since a 2016 referendum received support from 86 percent of voters in the District.
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Since then, the House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill that calls for D.C. to be defined as a state, and a second measure for statehood was scheduled for a committee review, a major accomplishment for advocates such as Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which oversees legislation about the District, is scheduled to hold a hearing on H.R. 51, the Washington D.C. Admission Act, on July 24.
But McConnell emphasized that as along as Republicans — and he — controls the Senate, the measure is going nowhere.
"As along as I am the majority leader in the U.S. Senate, none of that is going anywhere," McConnell said on Fox.
Norton's office declined to comment.