History in the making: Democrats move to approve DC statehood in the House

History in the making: Democrats move to approve DC statehood in the House

On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced that the full U.S. House will vote on granting statehood to Washington, D.C. on June 26. With a majority of House members already in support, Washington, D.C.’s statehood is expected to soon pass a chamber of Congress for the first time in U.S. history. This vote comes in response to the nation’s recent wave of unrest over police brutality and discrimination against Black Americans. It would serve as a pointed rebuke to the Trump administration after it teargassed peaceful protestors and used the military to occupy parts of the city, which Trump was able to do largely because of the lack of statehood and its legal protections against federal interference.

While Senate Republicans have vowed to block statehood for Washington, D.C. so long as they control the chamber, Senate Democrats are increasingly unified in support. In the weeks following George Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis police that sparked the wave of protests nationally, four Democrats—Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, Montana's Jon Tester, and Nevada’s Jacky Rosen—have all signed on as co-sponsors. As shown in the map at the top of this post (see here for a larger version), these new additions mean that 40 senators have now signed on, while just seven Democratic holdouts remain.

If Democrats win back the Senate in November, statehood supporters come within striking distance of a majority, especially since Democratic candidates who’ve come out in support of statehood—such as Montana’s Gov. Steve Bullock—could flip Republican-held seats. If Democrats eliminate the filibuster, it would only take a simple majority vote to admit Washington, D.C. as a state, and if statehood-supporter Joe Biden wins the White House and his vice president breaks a tie in favor, statehood would only need 10 more Senate votes to pass.

Notably, almost no other democratic country disenfranchises its own capital. Washington, D.C.'s population of almost 700,000 is already larger than Vermont’s and Wyoming’s, and the city is projected to reach 1 million residents in the coming decades. Most critically, the U.S. Senate gives white voters vastly outsized political power relative to voters of color, so admitting Washington, D.C. with its predominantly Black population would help mitigate the chamber's considerable racial bias—and ensure greater justice for the district.

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