By Matthew Koehler
In a historic vote on Friday June 26, the democratically led House passed H.R. 51, a bill to make D.C. the 51st state. The measure passed by a margin of 232-180 with one Democrat, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, voting against it.
This is the first time D.C. statehood has passed in either chamber of Congress. The last time the House voted on statehood was in 1993; it failed 277-153.
H.R. 51 carves out about two square miles for a smaller federal district that would include the White House, National Mall, the Capitol, among other federal buildings.The new state would be called Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, after famed American abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s non voting member of Congress, and tireless champion of statehood, said in a tweet: “The House just passed the #DCStatehood bill (#HR51), marking the first time since the creation of the District of Columbia 219 years ago that either chamber of Congress has passed a bill to grant statehood to D.C. residents and, with it, equal citizenship.”
Calls for statehood have grown louder in recent years but quickly reached a crescendo during the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests. After Congress voted on the multi-trillion-dollar CARES Act, which was to allot $1.25 billion to each state, D.C. labeled a territory in the act, only received half the amount given to other states. During the recent protests, the president was heavily criticized for flooding D.C. streets with both federal troops and anonymous federal authorities in a show of “overwhelming dominance” against the wishes of Mayor Bowser and the city council. Because D.C. is not a state and does not have a Governor, the decision to bring in the National Guard was out of the Council and Mayor’s hands.
Statehood will next move to the Republican held Senate where it is expected to be defeated. Both Mitch McConnell and the president have said that they do not favor D.C. statehood, citing that it would give democrats two senators and a voting member of the House. District residents overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Regardless of its fate in the senate, prominent democrats, including the presumptive democratic candidate for president, Joe Biden, have voiced loud support for D.C. statehood. Statehood will likely come up again in the near future.