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House passes Washington DC statehood bill

Today, the House of Representatives passed the Washington D.C. Admission Act. This is the second time that the bill has passed the House, but it is the first time that it has passed with Democratic control of the Senate and White House.

The bill – introduced by DC’s non-voting delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton – is symbolically designated H.R. 51 as DC would become the 51st state in the union. It passed in a 216-to-208 party-line vote.

While DC’s 705,749 residents currently lack representation in Congress, statehood would rectify that injustice. The bill refers to the potential new state as Washington, Douglass Commonwealth in honor of abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

As previously noted, DC has more residents than the states of Wyoming and Vermont. DC residents pay federal taxes and serve in the military. Despite all of this, they have no representation in the House or Senate.

Under the bill, the federal district remains intact as the nation’s capital, but it would shrink to a two-square-mile tract of land that includes the US Capitol and the White House. The remaining residential and commercial areas would become the nation’s 51st state.

Washington, Douglass Commonwealth would immediately become the nation’s densest state – 11,000 times denser than Alaska, the nation’s least dense state. It would also become the nation’s most educated state and the state with the largest proportion of African Americans.

Ironically – and embarrassingly for critics of statehood – DC would be the second-largest state in terms of population at the time of its admission.

More importantly, though, statehood means that DC residents would no longer be second-class American citizens.

Photo Credit: Mike MaguireFlickrCC BY 2.0

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Washington DC statehood gains momentum

As part of the new Congress, Democrats are prioritizing several pro-democracy reforms – including statehood for Washington DC. On Wednesday, Democrats in both the House and Senate introduced legislation that puts DC on the path to becoming the 51st state.

As NBC News reports:

The measure was reintroduced in the House by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who represents the District of Columbia, and its companion was unveiled in the Senate by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. As of Tuesday evening, Norton said that she had more than 200 co-sponsors in the House.

“There’s never been a time when statehood for the District was more likely,” Norton said in a statement, adding the bill was passed by the House last year for the first time and now had a “record” 202 co-sponsors. With the Senate companion bill also gaining co-sponsors, “we’re ready to achieve voting representation and full local self-government for the 712,000+ residents of the District of Columbia,” she said.

As others have pointed out, DC has more residents than the states of Wyoming and Vermont (and DC residents pay federal taxes), yet it has no representation in the House or Senate. Eleanor Holmes Norton has served as DC’s non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives since 1991.

The Democratic-controlled House made history last year when it passed a bill to make DC a state. That bill died in the Republican-controlled Senate. Following the 2020 elections and the Georgia Senate runoffs earlier this month, the Senate is split evenly. Democrats nominally control the chamber thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.

The prospects in the Senate are bleak if Democrats fail to abolish the anti-democratic filibuster, which allows a minority of senators to block legislation. We’ve argued that the Senate should abolish the filibuster to pass pro-democracy reforms like DC statehood.

In fact, the Senate’s ability to ban political gerrymandering ahead of redistricting, pass stricter anti-corruption and nepotism laws, impose new disclosure requirements for donors and super PACs, and enact universal voter registration hinges on abolishing or dramatically reforming the filibuster.

Photo Credit: Mike Maguire, Flickr, CC BY 2.0