House committee approves DC statehood bill

The House Oversight and Reform Committee approved legislation on Wednesday that would make Washington, D.C., a state, sending the measure to the House for a vote later this month.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee passed H.R. 51, also known as the Washington, D.C., Admission Act, in a 25-19 party-line vote.

The legislation, which has 215 co-sponsors, is likely to pass the House on a narrow, party-line vote, with all Republicans voting against it.

However, it will likely stall in an evenly divided Senate, where Democrats lack the 60 votes to overcome a Senate filibuster. It is also not clear that every Democrat in the Senate will back it.

After the committee vote, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said in a statement that his Senate counterpart bill, S. 51, now has 44 Democratic co-sponsors, the highest yet for such legislation in the upper chamber. 

Notably absent from the list, however, are moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), both of whom are opposed to nixing the filibuster.

Sponsored by D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the legislation takes a novel approach to D.C. statehood by shrinking the capital to the National Mall, monuments, White House and other federal buildings. The rest of the city would become a new state.

D.C. statehood became a more prominent issue over the past year as the nation saw how the District was unable to control its National Guard during anti-police brutality protests following the death of George Floyd in police custody. The District’s Guard is under federal control, not local control.

Most recently, the D.C. Guard’s slow response to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol also drew criticism.

But Norton has long advocated for the District to become a state, arguing that the city’s residents need proper representation in Congress.

“As American citizens, D.C. residents are entitled to equal citizenship, but they have also earned it. They have fought in every American war, including the war that led to the creation of the nation, the Revolutionary War. D.C. servicemembers have helped get voting rights for people throughout the world, yet have always been denied those same rights when they returned home,” she said in her opening remarks Wednesday.

Republicans, however, argue that Democrats are attempting a power grab because the city generally leans Democratic. The GOP also argues that D.C. statehood violates the 23rd Amendment, which gives the District electoral votes on presidential elections.

“If my Democrat colleagues want D.C. to become a state, the cleanest and fastest way for that to happen, is to repeal the 23rd Amendment before consideration of this bill,” Oversight Committee ranking member James Comer (R-Ky.) said. “But that’s not good enough for the progressives. That’s not good enough for The Squad. That’s not good enough for the liberal left. This bill is part of their no-holds-barred plan to reshape the American landscape to one of higher taxes and daily government intrusion into the lives of Americans.”

Advocates for statehood have long pointed to the District’s Black population to argue it should have statehood. D.C. is home to more than 700,000 people but has no senators, and its delegate in the House cannot vote on legislation. The District does have three electoral votes in presidential elections.

D.C. was long a majority-Black city, though according to U.S. census data from July 2019, its Black population was 47 percent.

Updated at 4:34 p.m.

Tags DC statehood Eleanor Holmes Norton James Comer Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Tom Carper Washington DC Washington DC statehood

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