On Thursday, the House passed legislation that would make Washington D.C. the nation’s 51st state. House Democrats, predicting that the D.C. statehood bill will pass in the House, began urging the U.S. Senate to end the filibuster, paving the way for this legislation to become law.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) predicted passage of the bill, saying that all or nearly all of House Democrats will vote in favor of the bill. Hoyer added, “I hope that the filibuster is jettisoned. It is not a democratic principle that a minority can … stop the majority.”
Washington D.C.’s one non-voting Congressional member, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said, “With the movement of the filibuster, there will be movement for D.C. statehood. And I do believe that the filibuster is on its way out.”
President Joe Biden has already voiced support for the bill and said he would sign it into law.
The House vote was 216-208 along party lines. The next step in the process will be to get the legislation through the Senate.
With the filibuster still in place, the 50-50 split, making Vice President Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote, is not an automatic for the Senate, which, if the filibuster remains in place, will require a 60 vote majority.
Another possible problem for Senate Democrats are a handful of moderate Democrats, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). While Manchin and Sinema have come out against ending the filibuster, neither has indicated how they would vote on a D.C. statehood measure.
Yet another possible unknown, moderate Republicans like Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Mitt Romney (R-UT), who has said in the past that he opposes D.C. statehood but would be in favor of Maryland retrocession, which would give D.C. a voting representative in Congress but not Senators.
The attempt to make Washington D. C. a state faces several Constitutional challenges as well.
Article 1 Section 8 gives Congress plenary powers over D.C., and Congress has exercised various home rule powers, but is free to have full control of the district at any time.
Robert Peck from the Center for Constitutional Litigation says that causes a conflict with statehood, “unless statehood is granted by constitutional amendment to the District.”
Peck mentions Maryland retrocession, and also says that the 23rd amendment would need to be considered, which allows U.S. citizens who reside in D.C. the ability to vote for presidential electors.
Thomas Colby, a Law Professor at George Washington University Law School says that Congress would have to repeal the 23rd amendment when they pass a statehood bill.
“If you do create a state out of DC, and you reduce the seat of government just to the buildings right around the mall, technically right at that moment, that new seat of government, those new buildings right around the mall get those three votes for the president,” Colby said. “Which is not what anyone wants to have happen.”
Of course, this would give a small section of the nation massive amounts of influence, and because it is the seat of the national government, possibly create huge conflicts of interest.
While Democrats argue that principle and voting rights are behind the push for Washington D.C. statehood, Republicans know better. They accuse Democrats of attempting nothing more than a huge power grab.
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) put it bluntly that D.C. statehood legislation “is nothing more than an unconstitutional power grab by Democrats to gain two ultra-progressive D.C Senate seats [and] enforce radical, far-left policies on the American people,”
Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) said that D.C. “would be the only state, the only state, without an airport, without a car dealership, without a capital city, without a landfill.” Democrats countered with the fact that there are car dealerships in D.C.
Citing the fact that Washington D. C. is one of the most liberal cities in the nation, Columnist George Will said in the Washington Post on Wednesday, “San Francisco will never vote Republican but will do so before D.C. does.”
As yet, no Republican Senators have said they will support the bill.
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