UPDATED 4:10 PM PT — Saturday, June 27, 2020
For the first time in history, the House of Representatives has passed a bill to grant Washington, D.C. statehood. The bill passed by a vote of 232-180. No Republicans supported the legislation and only one Democrat was against it.
A similar measure was proposed in 1978 and then again in 1993, both times failing. The bill resurfaced this year after President Trump overrode D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and deployed the National Guard to tame protesters.
Advocates for the bill claimed the district is worthy of statehood because it has more than 700,000 residents, which is more than the populations of both Wyoming and Vermont. Additionally, Washington, D.C.’s annual budget is larger than that of 12 other states.
Democrats have said they pushed the bill because they believe the residents of the nation’s capital have been subject to “taxation without representation.” The district does not have any official representation, but it does have a shadow senator who can do everything in Congress except vote.
“Congress has two choices: it can continue to exercise undemocratic, autocratic authority over the 705,000 American citizens who reside in our nation’s capital, or Congress can live up to its nation’s promise and ideals,” stated D.C. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton.
If the measure is passed based by the Senate, the area would get two voting senators and one House member.
Republicans have opposed this notion, which they viewed as a political stunt. According to them, those seats would most likely go to the Democrats, since the voters of D.C. have only ever elected Democrat mayors.
GOP lawmakers also cited the Constitution, specifically Article I, Section 8. This section called for the nation’s capital to remain a neutral bipartisan area for legislation, not be part of a state.
The new state would include the district’s residents, but not federal buildings, the National Mall, museums and memorials.
“What this bill does is it seeks to shrink the city of D.C. into a tiny city, then creates a state from the territory that is left over,” explained Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.).
The 23rd Amendment currently allocates three electoral votes to the District of Columbia. If shrunk down, it would give this small city extreme weight in the presidential election.
Overall, Republicans have argued D.C. statehood is not something the American people support.
“More than 2/3 of the American people oppose D.C. statehood, according to a Gallup poll last summer. By some estimates, D.C. statehood is less popular even than defunding the police. So why are the Democrats pushing for it?” – Tom Cotton, U.S. Senator (R-Ark.)
The bill’s next stop is the Senate, which is Republican led and highly unlikely to consider it.
In the event it is approved by the upper chamber, the president has voiced his opposition and promised to veto the proposal.