Will Washington, DC, Become The 51st US State?

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The bill to make DC a state was approved in the US House of Representatives on April 22, 2021 (Credit: YouTube screen capture)

On April 22, 2021, for the second consecutive year, the US House of Representatives voted 216-208 to make Washington, DC, the nation's 51st state. Though the symbolically titled H.R. 51 bill is identical to the one passed on June 26, 2020, the legislation was never put to the vote in the then Republican-controlled Senate. However, this time around, the bill — which has the support of both President Joe Biden and Democratic Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer — will get a hearing in the upper house of Congress.

Why is Washington, DC, a district?

Washington. DC, is designated a district under the legislation of the US Congress by the US Constitution (Credit: Pixabay/CC0)

The US Constitution stipulates that the seat of the U.S. government should be a “District" (not exceeding 10 square miles) over which Congress would “exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever.” The measure was placed to ensure that no single state could yield unfair power for playing host to the national government.

To maintain neutrality, the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801 stripped residents of their rights to vote in all federal elections, including for president. The 23rd Amendment, ratified in 1961, restored all voting rights. However, it stipulates that regardless of its population growth, DC can not have more electoral college votes than the nation's least populous state — Wyoming, which has just three electors.

In 1973, DC residents were finally allowed to elect a local government, comprising a mayor and a council. However, the US Congress continues to have the authority to modify and review the city's budget and overrule any law it doesn't like. As a result, despite paying more federal taxes per capita than residents of any other US state, the 700,000 people in the nation's capital city are at the mercy of the lawmakers. The residents also have no formal representation in the Senate and only a non-voting House Delegate, which means they have no designated lawmaker to advocate for them in Congress.

Proponents of H.R. 51 believe that all these issues will be resolved if DC is made a state. "For far too long, the more than 700,000 people of Washington, D.C., have been deprived of full representation in the U.S. Congress," a statement from the White House Office of Management and Budget said. "This taxation without representation and denial of self-governance is an affront to the democratic values on which our Nation was founded."

Would making DC a state require a Constitutional amendment?

Two square miles of Wahington DC would be set aside as the seat of the government (Credit: statehood.dc.gov)

Opponents of statehood argue that any change to DC's current status would require a constitutional amendment. However, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia House Delegate, who sponsored the legislation, says H.R 51 does not eliminate the “seat of government" — it merely shrinks it from the maximum 10 square miles allowed by the US Constitution to a smaller, 2-square-mile area. The new "District" would encompass all federal buildings and monuments — including the White House, the US Capitol, the National Mall, and the Supreme Court.

Does a House approval guarantee a vote in the Senate?

Most experts believe a 51st star in the US flag is unlikely for now (Credit: Jacobolus/ Public domain/ Wikimedia Commons)

The House vote, which was strictly along party lines with the Democrats voting for and the Republicans voting against the measure, does not guarantee the bill's passage in the Senate. Though Democrats, who occupy half the seats, can depend on Vice President Kamala Harris's tie-breaking vote, the Senate currently requires at least 60 votes to enact new legislation. Hence for H.R 51 to pass, ten Senate Republicans would have to vote in favor, which is extremely unlikely,

The lawmakers could change the requirement to a simple majority, but that would still require all 50 Democrat Senators to vote in favor of H.R. 51. On April 30, 2021, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, told a local radio station that he would not vote for DC statehood. “If Congress wants to make DC a state, it should propose a constitutional amendment,” Manchin said. “Let the people of America vote.”

Fellow Democrat Senator and former astronaut Mark Kelly of Arizona is also lukewarm to the idea. “I haven’t made a decision on it one way or the other,” Kelly told Capitol Hill reporters shortly after the House vote. “I’ll make a decision ultimately based on what’s in the best interest of our country.”

The timeline of when the proposal will be considered in the Senate remains unclear. However, most experts believe that even if the bill passes, the battle will be embroiled in the courts for many years. Regardless of the outcome, Ms. Norton is happy with the progress she has made since her first attempt for DC statehood in 1993, when over 100 House Democrats opposed the idea.

If passed, what would the new state be called?

Since we already have a state called Washington, Ms. Norton suggests naming the new addition The State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth — after the nation's first president and famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who lived in DC from 1877 to 1895.

Resources: WashingtonPost.com, NPR.com. Whitehouse.gov, Usatoday.con

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218 Comments
  • epicgamerrrr
    epicgamerrrrMonday, June 14, 2021 at 5:34 am
    Have you guys never learned about "no taxation without representation"? Right now, D.C. gets NO representation in Congress. No representative and no senators. They don't get ANY way to express their concerns in Congress. Statehood is necessary. Side note - D.C. has more population than the state of Wyoming.
    • ivyian
      ivyianSunday, June 13, 2021 at 11:35 pm
      I think everybody and every citizen is under a tough situation at the moment. I am not completely approved of making more important decisions before the severe pandemic pass. No matter what, let the world decide.
      • iris123
        iris123Thursday, June 10, 2021 at 9:05 am
        To be honest, I think that there's more cons than pros. Cons: you would have to change the flag, there is already a place called Washington. Pros: ...The more the merrier? Besides, we're good the way we are, but it'd be good to have a change other than the president, and covid 19, and all sorts.
        • cool-guy
          cool-guyFriday, June 11, 2021 at 10:28 pm
          Super smart explanation!
        • dragonflameroar
          dragonflameroarTuesday, June 8, 2021 at 4:10 pm
          I hope it doesn't become a state
          • dragonflameroar
            dragonflameroarMonday, June 7, 2021 at 8:40 pm
            i like the us just the way it is
            • iamviola
              iamviolaMonday, June 7, 2021 at 7:13 am
              Wow, how cool is it to be alive during all these big historical events?
              • 11xxalexxx11
                11xxalexxx11Thursday, June 3, 2021 at 6:50 am
                I hope it doesn't become a state! I really enjoy it being a territory and think that we should keep it how our founding fathers wanted it. It may be a change for the better, or for the worse. I really don't know.
                • epicgamerrrr
                  epicgamerrrrMonday, June 14, 2021 at 5:35 am
                  If we kept it the way the founding fathers wanted it, we would still only have 13 states :/
                  • emocutie
                    emocutieThursday, June 3, 2021 at 3:12 pm
                    I hope it doesn't become a state either. I like the US the way it is tbh
                  • kaceythenbody
                    kaceythenbodyWednesday, June 2, 2021 at 10:13 am
                    yes, i agree
                    • 29zabraham
                      29zabrahamMonday, May 31, 2021 at 6:08 pm
                      That will be COOL
                      • kitkat1265candy
                        kitkat1265candyFriday, May 28, 2021 at 10:20 am
                        They should make the name something different.
                        • epicgamerrrr
                          epicgamerrrrMonday, June 14, 2021 at 5:35 am
                          The name would be District of Columbia