US House passes bill to make Washington DC the 51st state, tough Senate fight ahead

US House passes bill to make Washington DC the 51st state, tough Senate fight ahead

WASHINGTON DC: The House of Representatives voted Thursday (local time) on a bill that would admit Washington DC as the 51st state of the United States. The legislation passed along party lines with a vote of 216 (D) to 208 (R) with no Republicans voting in favour.

The bill will move to an evenly divided Senate, where it’s likely to fail because of the political odds of not enough Democratic control of the chamber.

For the second time in history, the House has passed the legislation and the unprecedented support from Democrats nationwide, including in the White House, has energised supporters and advocates of the bill.

“I am pleased by the strong showing of Democratic unity in the House by today’s vote, but disappointed that no Republicans joined the bill yet,” Senator Paul Strauss, one of the District’s “shadow” senators since 1997, told ANI.

“Today’s victory was historic, both for DC residents and for the cause of DC statehood,” Eleanor Holmes Norton said in a statement after the bill was passed. Norton represents DC in Congress as a non-voting delegate.

The nation’s capital, by law, does not enjoy elected voting representation in Congress, although its residents pay federal taxes. The movement gained national attention and an unprecedented level of support ahead of the November 2020 election, with advocates campaigning on a platform of “equality” for DC voters.

Even though President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, along with numerous celebrities and legislators, have voiced support for the measure, but in the US Senate the measure has only 45 sponsors, still five votes short of the number needed to pass the bill.

There is also a procedural hurdle in the Senate that the supporters of the bill did not have in the House. “We need at least 10 Republicans to agree to let the measure come up for a vote, even if they don’t support the bill. Or we need all Democrats to agree to amend the”filibuster” threshold and allow the vote to take place needing only 51 Votes to pass it. This requires all Democrats to support the bill, and a Senate Rules change.” Strauss noted.

The legislation proposes creating a 51st state with one representative and two senators, while a tiny sliver of land including the White House, the US Capitol and the National Mall would remain as a federal district. Instead of the District of Colombia, the new state would be known as Washington, Douglass Commonwealth — named after famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who lived in Washington from 1877 until his death in 1895.

“This Congress is excessively rural and conservative and frequently clashes with urban and progressive DC on issues important to DC residents. Statehood gives the residents self-determination and sovereignty comparable to the other US States, as well as equal representation in Congress,” Strauss concluded. (ANI)