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Votes to make DC the 51st state

The House of Representatives on Thursday approved legislation that would make Washington, DC, the nation’s 51st state, a measure that would grant residents of the nation’s capital the right to vote and representation in Congress.

Bill HR 51 was adopted according to party principles. The vote will bring DC closer to statehood than it has been for at least three decades.

“We are correcting a historic injustice by passing legislation to finally grant the District of Columbia statehood,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Said from the House floor.

It’s the second time in two years that the House voted to make DC a state. But in 2020, Republican control of the Senate and the White House prevented final passage. Democrats now control the Senate, and President Joe Biden’s administration announced its official support for the legislation earlier this week, throwing the weight of the White House behind the effort in a way no president had. done before.

“For too long, the more than 700,000 residents of Washington, DC have been denied full representation in the United States Congress,” the administration said in an official statement of its political position. “This taxation without representation and the denial of self-government is an affront to the democratic values ​​on which our Nation was founded.”

The effort now shifts to the Senate, where it faces a longer chance of approval. Forty-five Democratic senators signed the House version of the bill; New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen, one of five Democrats yet to do so, has co-sponsored similar legislation in the past. The others – centrist senses Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona), Mark Kelly (Arizona) and Angus King (I-Maine) – have not taken a public stand on the issue.

The filibuster, a procedural hurdle that requires 60 votes to clear, could derail the state push even if it garners the support of the 50 Democrats. But Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), a non-voting representative in Congress for DC, told HuffPost on Thursday that she believed the state bill would pass – either because Democrats ultimately choose to remove the state altogether filibuster, or because they change the rules of the Senate to allow the approval of bills relating to the state by simple majority.

“I think we are on the right path to becoming a state. Systematic obstruction is on its last legs in the Senate, ”she said.

Republicans widely oppose DC’s statehood, primarily because it would almost certainly ensure the election of two more Democrats to the Senate, which could shift the political balance of a body currently split evenly between both parties. As former President Donald Trump said before the House of State Bill 2020 passed: “District of Columbia, a state? Why? So we can have two more Democratic Democratic senators and five other members of Congress? No thanks. That will never happen. (DC would have one House member if admitted as a state, not five.)

Congressional Republicans, seeking to avoid such a naked partisan argument, struggled to make coherent arguments against statehood: During House hearings on the legislation, Republican lawmakers instead justified their opposition on the grounds that DC has no airports, landfills, car dealerships, operating mines or a large-scale manufacturing industry. (In fact, Washington has a landfill, car dealerships, and factories. Three major airports serve the DC metro area.)

“Unfortunately, Washington state has taken a rather dark turn,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) said Thursday. “Some of my colleagues across the way, rather than arguing on the merits, have taken to denigrating the core value of the residents of the District of Columbia. A member of the minority party [said] Lawmakers should, to quote, “Get out where the real people are across the country.” “

These arguments represent “bigotry, bigotry, bigotry,” Schumer said.

Utah Senator Mitt Romney, one of the few Republicans who hoped he could back the effort, told reporters this week he was quite supportive make DC part of Maryland, an idea increasingly popular among Republicans and preservatives that the political leaders of Washington and Maryland both oppose.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, another Republican target of state advocates, has yet to take a position on the legislation. In 2019, Murkowski offers a constitutional amendment to give DC electoral representation in Congress without making it a state.

It is a fundamental question of voting and civic rights.
Representative Carolyn Maloney

For the past two years, defenders of the state have campaigned outside the nation’s capital, showing television commercials and organizing rallies in key states during the 2020 presidential campaign in an effort to strengthen the movement. During last year’s Democratic presidential primaries, the state-building effort garnered support from almost all the main candidates In the race. Activists have tried to replicate this strategy to persuade undecided senators, including Sinema and Kelly, to support the cause this year.

The bill admits DC as a state while carving out a two square mile area stretching from the White House to the Capitol to remain the constitutionally mandated federal district.

For decades, supporters have argued that DC’s lack of state and the representation in Congress that accompanies it deprived the city’s residents of their rights. This dynamic has had a disproportionate impact on black people, who historically have made up the majority of DC’s population. (Currently 46% of DC residents are black.)

“This is a fundamental question of voting and civil rights,” said Representative Carolyn Maloney (DN.Y.).

Trump’s use of Federal Law Enforcement and the National Guard to crack down on Black Lives Matter protests and the right-wing uprising on Capitol Hill in January breathed new energy into the state movement. State-building campaigns have also linked their efforts to broader struggles for Democratic voting rights, especially as Republican state legislatures have continued. a wave of new voting restrictions in all the countries. Advocates pushed Senate Democrats to attach state status to their expanded voting rights and the Electoral Reform Bill, and also linked them to calls for abolish systematic obstruction.

“We cannot allow Washington state to become the next bill in a long line of filibuster-killed civil rights laws,” said Stasha Rhodes, 51 for 51 campaign manager, in a press release Thursday.

Arthur Delaney contributed reporting.

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