House to vote on making Washington, D.C. the 51st state.
The U.S. House Representatives will vote next week on a bill to admit Washington, D.C. as the 51st state in the country. This is the first time in 25 years the issue of D.C. statehood has been debated in Congress.
The bill is sponsored by D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and co-sponsored by 224 members of Congress. It calls for renaming Washington, D.C., to the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, after famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who resided there.
This is a deeply personal issue for Holmes Norton.
“Three generations of my family have yet to attain rights other Americans take for granted, going back to my great-grandfather Richard Holmes who escaped slavery, leaving a Virginia plantation and making it to Washington, D.C.,” said Norton. “A walk to freedom, but not to equal citizenship.”
Holmes Norton noted that her bill already has enough co-sponsors for passage. She says that statehood for D.C. will finally put an end to the district’s oldest saying “taxation without representation” which is stamped on every license plate in the city.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the U.S. is the only free nation whose capital does not allow a voting member of their legislative body. He pointed to recent events connected to coronavirus and George Floyd protests as examples for why he believes D.C. statehood is necessary.
“If D.C. were a state it could not be shortchanged as it was under the CARES Act, and its residents would be protected from the kind of civil rights violations we saw in Lafayette Square all for the purpose of a photo op,” Hoyer said.
Other Democrats have argued that if D.C. had statehood, then President Donald Trump would not have been able to call in federal officials to handle protesters.
Trump has rejected the idea of statehood for D.C., pointing to the effect it would have on Congress.
“D.C. will never be a state,” Trump said. “Why? So, we can have two more Democratic senators and five more congressmen? No thank you. That’ll never happen.”
Republicans maintain that Congress cannot legally make D.C. a state. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution spells out the requirements for the country’s seat of government.
“If you want to change it then there is a remedy and it requires amending the Constitution of the United States,” said Republican Congressman Jim Jordan. “Congress cannot admit D.C. as a state legislatively.”
Even if the bill passes, the Democrat-controlled House, which is likely, it will almost certainly die in the Republican-controlled Senate.
In her current role as D.C.’s delegate, Holmes Norton can serve on committees, but she cannot cast votes on the House floor.
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