Democrats are in control of both chambers of Congress and are expected to pass legislation that would move Washington, D.C., one step closer to achieving the ever-evasive status of statehood.
While H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, is expected to pass in the House, it is likely to be dead on arrival when it reaches the Senate because not enough Republicans are expected to support the legislation to reach the 60 vote threshold. The bill would downsize the capital to an area encompassing the White House, Capitol building, Supreme Court and other federal buildings around the National Mall.
The remaining parts of the city would be America’s 51st state. Its name would be the Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, paying homage to abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
The bill was first introduced by Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s non voting House member who has spent years trying to get the capital city statehood. Democratic leaders are excited about this next phase in getting equal representation for Washington, D.C.’s mostly Black American residents.
“With HR 51, Congress is taking a significant step to enfranchise the people of DC and empower them to participate fully in our democracy,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of the legislation on Wednesday. “Again, we’re excited that we will pass it. We will celebrate, and we hope that momentum will help it pass in the Senate so that the President can sign it into law.”
If the bill passes in the Senate—and that is a huge if and likely no— it would give D.C. House and Senate representation in Congress. This is something that Republicans do not want because it would all but certainly produce two new Democratic votes in the Senate. If D.C. had statehood, Democrats would be able to pass their legislative goals a bit more easily because they’d have more numbers in their favor.
There are plenty of technical issues ahead as D.C. pursues statehood, but here is the takeaway: Black folks would be further empowered politically. Of course Republicans don’t want that.