House Approves 'Historic' Legislation Granting Statehood to Washington, D.C.
The Democrat-led bill passed by a 232-180 vote in the House, but is not expected to pass the Senate
For the first time in U.S. history, a body of Congress voted in favor of making Washington D.C. the 51st state in the country.
On Friday, the House of Representatives approved the historic legislation by a 232-180 vote, though the bill is not expected to pass the Senate and be signed into law. The legislation was led by the district's nonvoting Congressional representative, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.
Norton, and the 232 Democrats who supported the House bill, largely argued in favor of D.C.'s statehood based on the idea of "taxation without representation," an idea the United States was partly founded upon and the motto that Washington D.C. uses on its license plates.
But if the bill passed the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — a Republican and fierce Trump loyalist — has said he would make sure the legislation wouldn't even be debated in the Senate, according to The Washington Post.
President Donald Trump also waved off the idea of making Washington D.C. the nation's 51st state in a recent interview with the New York Post in May, saying Republicans would be "very, very stupid" to allow the Democrat-leaning district to gain voting power in Congress.
“DC will never be a state,” Trump told the Post. “You mean District of Columbia, a state? Why? So we can have two more Democratic — Democrat senators and five more congressmen? No thank you. That’ll never happen.”
The 705,000-plus Americans who live in the nation's capital, including Norton, disagree and say it should.
Norton argued Friday that D.C.'s request for statehood "has both the facts and Constitution on its side."
"The Constitution does not establish any prerequisites for new states, but Congress generally has considered three factors in admission decisions: resources and population, support for statehood and commitment to democracy," Norton told her colleagues.
Arguing that point further, Norton said D.C. "pays more federal taxes per capita than any state," said the district's population is larger than states, such as Wyoming and Vermont, and cited that 86-percent of D.C. residents voted in favor of making it a state in 2016.
"D.C. residents have been fighting for voting rights in Congress and local autonomy for 219 years," Norton said.
Some Democrat lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, wore pro-statehood facemasks with "51" embroidered on them on the House floor Friday to show their support for D.C.'s call for state recognition. "Statehood for the District is about showing respect for our democracy," Pelosi said, according to local NBC 4 Washington.
Republican lawmakers argued the country's founders had not intended for D.C., the nation's capital to become a state. “The Founding Fathers never intended for D.C. to become a state, and carefully crafted the Constitution so that the seat of the federal government would NOT be within a state," Rep. Dan Meuser, a Republican from Pennsylvania, said Friday.
Meuser also argued that the roughly two-hour debate over D.C.'s statehood on Friday equated to Congress "wasting time" amid the coronavirus pandemic and widespread calls for police reform given that the bill had virtually no Republican support in the Senate or from the White House.
“Our country faces unprecedented crises that demand immediate action from Congress," the Pennsylvania Republican argued. "Instead of working towards solutions on pressing issues like calming the unrest in our communities and safely reopening our economy, House Democrats are focusing their efforts on granting statehood to Washington, D.C. Without support in the Senate or from the White House, this is another political messaging bill from Speaker Pelosi that will go nowhere."
But despite the fact the bill likely won't progress through other arms of Congress, advocates took to Twitter to celebrate what proponents see as a "historic" show of support for D.C.'s journey to becoming the 51st state.
"With this historic vote, DC is closer than we have ever been to becoming the 51st state," Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wrote in a lengthy thread celebrating the House vote.
"As Washingtonians and as taxpaying American citizens, we are demanding what is owed to us – the rights guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution," Mayor Bowser continued, adding, "I was born without representation, but I swear – I will not die without representation. Together, we will achieve DC statehood, and when we do, we will look back on this day and remember all who stood with us on the right side of history."