For the First Time, the House Approves Statehood for DC

Senate Republicans remain opposed to the idea
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 26, 2020 4:06 PM CDT
In a First, House Backs DC as 51st State
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser speaks Thursday during a news conference on Capitol Hill about DC statehood.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The House approved a bill Friday to make the District of Columbia the 51st state, saying Congress has both the moral obligation and constitutional authority to ensure that the city's 700,000 residents are allowed full voting rights, no longer subject to "taxation without representation.'' Lawmakers approved the bill, 232-180, largely along party lines, marking the first time either chamber of Congress has passed a DC statehood bill, the AP reports. The legislation now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it faces insurmountable opposition from GOP leaders. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district's non-voting representative in Congress, sponsored the bill. It would create a new state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, in honor of the Maryland-born Frederick Douglass, and shrink the US district to federal buildings.

DC's population is larger than that of Wyoming and Vermont, and the new state would be one of seven with populations under 1 million, Norton said. The city's $15.5 billion annual budget is larger than that of 12 states, she said. Opponents, mostly Republicans, called the bill a power grab for the Democratic city and said the nation's founders intended the capital to be separate. "This is about power. Make no mistake about it,'' said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas. Norton said the issue is deeply personal for residents who have long been disenfranchised. Her great-grandfather Richard Holmes escaped slavery at a Virginia plantation and “made it as far as DC, a walk to freedom but not to equal citizenship,'' she said. "For three generations my family has been denied the rights other Americans take for granted.''

(Read more Washington DC statehood stories.)

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