On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver criticized the disenfranchisement of more than 600,000 voters in the US: the residents of Washington, DC.
"They pay federal taxes, and fight in wars," Oliver said, "and yet have no member of Congress who's able to vote on their behalf, even though their population is larger than Vermont and Wyoming, and their gross domestic product is higher than that of 16 states."
Not only that, Oliver pointed out, but DC's laws also need to go through congressional approval, and Congress can further block any legislation in DC through budget riders that limit what the District can spend its money on. And that's one of the reasons DC residents and advocates are pushing to make the district its own state.
"We're the only democracy in the world that does this"
The US is the odd country out with how it treats its capital city, Oliver explained. "Isn't this just how countries treat their capital cities? It actually isn't," he said. "We're the only democracy in the world that does this."
"States' rights, yes, but Washington, DC, is not a state"
Some conservative members of Congress have gone to great lengths to justify their support for "states' rights" and stringent oversight of DC. After passing a measure that tried (and failed) to block limited marijuana legalization in DC, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said he still supports states' rights, "but Washington, DC, is not a state."
"You know you have a weak argument when you're clinging to the precise wording you use," Oliver said.
Oliver criticized some congressmen of hypocrisy for blocking DC laws. For example, even though Georgia had a needle exchange program, a Georgia lawmaker, former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), in 1999 criticized DC for trying to set up its own program, and helped block it.
"It seems that Congress just forces riders on DC whenever they disapprove of how they're spending their own money," Oliver said. "They are treating more than 600,000 people right now like children."
"But we'd have to change the flag"
Oliver also poked fun at one of the less-serious arguments against statehood — that we'd have to change the US flag if DC became a state.
"We could do that," Oliver said. "Sure, it would look slightly different, but we've been using a 51-star flag for this whole segment and none of you have fucking noticed."