The house approvedmake Washington, DC the fifty-first state on Friday, marking the first time that a DC statehood proposal has been passed in either house of Congress, though it will not have a vote in the Senate. The legislation went from 232 to 180, and only one Democrat joined Republicans to vote against.
The legislation, titled HR 51, would create the Washington State, Douglass Commonwealth, named after Frederick Douglass. The district has a population of more than 700,000 people, larger than the populations of Wyoming and Vermont. DC residents have no voting representation in Congress. Eleanor Holmes Norton represents DC in Congress as a non-voting delegate.
“The United States is the only democratic country that denies both voting rights in the national legislature and local autonomy to residents of the nation’s capital,” Norton said in a speech on the floor of the House before the vote. Norton also spoke about the importance of voting in personal terms.
“My great-grandfather Richard Holmes, who escaped as a slave to a Virginia plantation, came to DC, a path to freedom but not equal citizenship. For three generations, my family was denied rights that other Americans take for granted. . “Norton said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will not take the legislation to the Senate floor. Republicans have voiced their opposition to the state of Washington, DC, largely because the city is heavily Democratic.
Republican Senator Tom Cotton argued in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday that Wyoming may be smaller, but it is a “well-balanced workers’ state.”
Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Democrat, responded in a tweet that DC residents should not be deprived of representation “just because Tom Cotton doesn’t think they have the right jobs.”
“Would you trust Mayor Bowser to keep Washington safe if she were given the powers of a governor? Would you trust Marion Barry?” Cotton said, referring to the current mayor and the late former mayor, both black.
However, President Trump has also criticized the idea of DC statehood, and the White House has threatened to veto the legislation.
“DC will never be a state,” Trump told the New York Post in May. “You mean the District of Columbia, one state? Why? So can we have two more Democratic senators and five more congressmen? No thanks. That will never happen.”
Liberal groups praised the vote as a strike for racial justice and said “it was time to make DC’s statehood a reality.” People for the American Way President Ben Jealous said in a statement that “DC statehood is an issue of racial equity for everyone, not just the people who live there. Globally, denying full citizenship it sends an appalling message to the overwhelmingly black and brown population of DC. Nationwide, it perpetuates entrenched power in Congress that often hampers real progress on racial equity. “
Activists have called for eliminating the filibuster in the Senate to boost DC statehood, as that would remove the 60-vote threshold and allow the Senate to pass the measure with just 51 votes.
The DC statehood vote was the first House vote on the issue since 1993.
Kimberly Brown contributed to this report.