There is an ongoing discussion about the District of Columbia (“DC”) securing statehood. Residents of DC are mostly fans of the idea, while the rest of America remains largely uninformed about the pros and cons of DC becoming the fifty-first state.
Congress is advancing a statehood bill which, if successful will not only create a new state, but modify the American flag to include a 51st star.
I’m told that the statehood bill, championed by DC’s non-voting House member, Eleanor Holmes Norton, known as the “Washington, DC, Admission Act is not expected to be acted on soon. After all, DC is currently engulfed in an impeachment meltdown. Even if the House passed the bill, there is no chance the Republicans controlled Senate would take it up.
Behind the Act is the addition of DC representatives to the House of Representatives. Since DC’s citizens are mostly Democrats the margin of representation would tilt further in favor of the Democrat’s.
This isn’t the first attempt at DC statehood. The last time was in 1993. The House rejected the effort. Ironically, many Democrats joined with Republicans to vote against the initiative. In 2016, DC put the idea to a referendum vote of the people and it received about 80% positive support.
Citizens of DC pay federal taxes and this is often cited as the primary reason statehood should be approved. The recent Congressional hearing to consider DC statehood was the first of its kind and I would argue that this is a measurable advancement of the cause.
The bill, HR 51, would effectively grant DC citizens representation. Under the legislation, the new state would be named “Washington, Douglass Commonwealth,” after Frederick Douglass. This would require a number of considerations including the drafting and approval of a constitution for the new state.
The voters need to elect two Senators and the requisite number of Representatives to the House. Since the population is about 700,000 the new state would be on par with Wyoming, entitling it to one Representative. Finally, the new State would need a governor, delegates to the electoral college, and new house and senate state legislators. The current city government would need to be dissolved so the state government could assert itself.
Most people do not know that DC citizens did not have the right to vote for President until 1961. Their nonvoting delegate was approved in 1970 and the current city government (mayor and council) was approved in 1973. DC got its very first attorney general in 2010.
A likely bet would be that the DC statehood question is inching closer to reality than perhaps ever before. As long as the Republicans control the Senate, there will be no statehood granted to the District of Columbia which would increase the Senate to 102 Senators.