WASHINGTON – The Democratic-led House of Representatives again passed legislation Thursday that would make Washington, DC the 51st state – what residents and leaders of the nation’s capital have been asking for decades.
The bill was passed 216-208.
But Washington, DC’s admissions law has a slim chance of moving forward in the divided Senate, where it would need Republican support to overcome a legislative hurdle known as filibuster. Without at least 10 Republican Senate votes joining the 50 Democrats and Independents, the bill will fail President Joe Biden’s office
The bill, introduced by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, DD.C., was passed by the House in the last Congress, although it was not voted on in the Republican-majority Senate. The House’s passage in 2020 marked the first time a Washington state bill has passed in either house of Congress.
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday and wearing a mask bearing the number “51”, said: “Our founders built our democracy on the simple promise that every American should have a voice in our government: from city hall to the halls of Congress. Washingtonians … pay taxes, fight in our wars, contribute to the economic life of our country. But for centuries they have been denied their right to representation. “
“Taxation without representation” is on Washington license plates because residents pay taxes but are not represented by a vote in Congress, Pelosi noted.
Residents can vote in presidential elections. Norton is Washington’s sole congressional delegate, a position that allows her to draft a law but not to vote, according to the city government.
With HR 51, Pelosi continued, “Congress takes an important step in empowering the people of DC with the power to participate fully in our democracy.”
Democrats, supporters of the legislation, and Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser have argued that creating a state for Washington, a city with a large black population, is a matter of civil rights. Supporters say state creation is necessary because residents are disenfranchised due to lack of representation in Congress.
Census Bureau data shows that 46% of the district’s population is African American, 11% is Hispanic or Latin American, and 4% is Asian.
But Republicans argue that the size of Washington’s population makes it too small to be a state.
Representative Nancy Mace, RS.C., recently asserted that Washington “would not even be considered a singular parliamentary district”, and that should prevent it from gaining state status. She said so as Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican who represents Wyoming, stood behind her.
Washington, DC, with a population of approximately 700,000, is larger than Wyoming and Vermont in terms of population, according to the most recent census data.
Republicans have also accused Democrats of seeking to become a state for political purposes, as people in the district tend to lean politically towards that party. Since 2000, according to the Brookings Institute, the Democratic presidential candidate has garnered more than 89% of the vote in Washington, DC
Under the bill, the state would be represented by two senators, like all other states, and a member of the House of Representatives. The number of representatives of a state is based on population. Vermont, Delaware, Wyoming, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana each have a representative.
Republicans have long insisted that these senators would be Democrats.
“They plan to make the District of Columbia a state – which would give them two new Democratic senators – Puerto Rico a state, which would give them two more new Democratic senators,” McConnell said in a statement. interview with Laura Ingraham of Fox News last year. “It is therefore a full-fledged socialism on the march in the Chamber”.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., speaking from the Senate floor Thursday, said the arguments against Washington, DC, statehood are rooted in bigotry.
“The Washington state debate has taken a rather dark turn,” he said. “Some of my colleagues across the way, rather than making a substantive argument, began to denigrate the core value of the residents of the District of Columbia. . ”
Ahead of Thursday’s vote, Minority House Leader Kevin McCarthy of R-Calif. Called Washington, DC a “regime” hinged on “consolidating power and adopting sweeping policies.”
After:Could DC and Puerto Rico become the next American states? Here’s what Congress is planning
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, opposes the legislation, telling reporters he supports making Washington, DC, part of the state of Maryland, giving residents a voting member of the House, but no ‘adding no member to the Senate.
The White House officially backed the idea on Tuesday, saying the legislation would provide Washington residents “long-awaited full representation in Congress.”
“The establishment of Washington State, Douglass Commonwealth, as the 51st state, will make our Union stronger and fairer,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement. “Washington, DC has a robust economy, a rich culture, and a diverse population of Americans from all walks of life who are entitled to full and equal participation in our democracy.”
Republicans also say the Constitution specifically set aside land for the capital which was not a state.
The territory of the proposed state would include all of the current territory of the district, with the exception of federal monuments and buildings such as the White House and the Capitol building.
The status of state issue resurfaced after the Jan.6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building by supporters of former President Donald Trump. Bowser called on Congress to grant Washington state status. The mayor cannot deploy Washington National Guard troops because authority over the Guard forces rests with the President, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of the Army.
“To argue that Washingtonians must remain disenfranchised to protect the interests of the federal government is dangerous, outdated and downright insulting,” Bowser said in a March hearing in Congress.
With lawmakers like Romney not on board, the legislation faces a grim future.
While the Senate version of the bill has more than 40 sponsors, several moderates remain undecided. A few Democrats, and not all Republicans, have co-sponsored it.
But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., Expressed optimism on the future of the legislation on Wednesday, noting that the bill has the backing of Biden and Schumer.
“So we’re not in the same position as last year,” Hoyer said. “We knew Senator McConnell was not going to introduce the bill for the wrong reasons. We are hopeful that we can move forward. Obviously, we are going to need some Republicans to vote in principle instead. than politics. “