D.C. The 51st State?
After decades of failed attempts, Democrats think this is their best shot at finally passing Washington, D.C. into statehood. Eleanor Holmes Norton, author of H.R. 51, has been seeking statehood for the nation’s capital for thirty years. Support has waxed and waned through time, but she is convinced that now is her best shot.
Norton, who serves as the capital’s delegate in Congress, but does not get a vote, has her strongest backing yet. As it stands, there are 215 co-sponsors for the bill, and polls across the nation show that 54% of voters believe that D.C. should be indoctrinated as a state. However, even after H.R. 51’s last go around had a sweeping victory in the house – a 232-180 victory – it was shortly thereafter denied in the Senate.
"D.C. statehood is all about Speaker Pelosi and liberal Democrats consolidating their power to enact radical policies nationwide like the Green New Deal, packing the Supreme Court, and eliminating the filibuster," offered Congressman James Comer, who would go on to call the bill a “dangerous political power grab.” He continued, saying "The Democrats' bill is unconstitutional and no amount of testimony can change that basic fact."
Mitch McConnell, never shy to share his opinion, chimed in as well. He described the idea of D.C. becoming a state as “full-bore socialism.”
The Republican hesitation does not come without merit. Washington, D.C. has historically housed liberal-leaning voters. In the last presidential election, Joe Biden won 92% of the vote from the capital. Should D.C. earn its recognition as a state, it would earn more representation in government. Currently, D.C. does not have any representatives with votes; statehood would allow them two in the Senate and one in the House, all of whom would likely be Democrats based on past voting history in the area.
Regardless of the Republican naysaying, Norton is still optimistic about her chances of passing H.R. 51. Norton mentioned that the bill’s failure last year helped enlighten many Americans. "This now has captured the majority of American voters, which makes us believe that the watchword, 'taxation without representation,' is on its way out," she said during an interview with CBS News. She believes that Americans learned during last year’s hearing that Washington, D.C. doesn’t have all that much say in what happens there, but that Congress actually has the final say on how budget and local legislation are handled for the capital. For example, deploying the National Guard during the events of January 6th was not determined by D.C. representatives, but by the president. "Not even having control over your own National Guard means you can't save the Capitol and maybe you can't even save yourselves,” said Norton, who offered a separate bill allowing the mayor of the District to activate the National Guard.
In addition to the popularity with common people, Norton has working in her favor the balance in the Senate. Given her excess number of co-sponsors, H.R. 51 should breeze through the House; the Senate should pose less of a threat this time around, too. Republicans hold 50 seats, while Democrats hold 48, and Independents 2. Even in the event of a 50-50 tie in voting, Vice President Kamala Harris would have the tie-breaking vote, which would undoubtedly lean in the Democrats’ favor.
"We've gotten off of the wish list to an approach of a new reality," said Norton, ever hopeful of seeing her bill pass. "In 2022, I do think we will have a better chance for statehood in both houses," remaining optimistic of the Democrats’ chances of holding their ground in the Senate.