House Democrats Pass Bill To Make D.C. The 51st State

Activists take part in a March rally near the U.S. Capitol in support of statehood for Washington, D.C. One month later, the House of Representatives passed a bill 216-208 that would make D.C. the nation's 51st state. Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
[ – April 22, 2021] The U.S. House of Representatives has once again voted on a bill to grant statehood to Washington, D.C., and enfranchise more than 712,000 Americans, a cause that enjoys unprecedented support but still faces an uphill battle in the U.S. Senate.

“This country was founded on the principles of no taxation without representation and consent of the governed. But D.C. residents are taxed without representation and cannot consent to the laws under which they as American citizens must live,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting delegate, on the House floor ahead of the vote.

Her statehood bill, H.R. 51, would reduce the size of the federal district and create a new state with the remaining territory with two U.S. senators and a representative, placing residents on equal footing with voters in other states. Statehood advocates contend the cause is also a fight for racial justice. If admitted, Washington, D.C., would be the first state with a plurality of Black residents.

House Democrats passed Norton’s bill last year in a historic vote, but the legislation never reached the GOP-led Senate.

Now, with Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate, the effort to make D.C. the 51st star on the nation’s flag has more support than ever before — even though it is unclear whether the measure has the backing of all 50 Democratic senators, let alone 60 votes in all, for it to pass in the Senate.

It passed the House on Thursday 216-208 along party lines.

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., claimed Democrats’ push for statehood is a transparent attempt to grow their power in Washington.

“I wonder, listening to the debate, if our friends on the other side of the aisle would be so passionate if Washington, D.C., were 90% Republican as [opposed to] 90% Democrat,” he said.

President Biden has repeatedly expressed support for D.C. statehood, and on Tuesday, the White House formally called on Congress to “provide for a swift and orderly transition to statehood for the people of Washington, D.C.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has promised to bring the measure to the Senate floor for a vote. But 60 votes are needed to overcome the legislative filibuster, and Republicans stand universally opposed to the statehood effort.

Even if the filibuster weren’t at play here, it’s unclear whether all Senate Democrats are on board with the legislation.

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