House approves making Washington, DC, a state

The House on Thursday voted to make Washington, DC, the nation’s 51st state — following a heated debate among lawmakers that included wild accusations from Rep. Mondaire Jones that Republican arguments against statehood are “racist trash.”

If approved by the Senate, the legislation would hand Democrats two new senators.

The 188-167 vote along party lines would make DC a state while preserving the land around the White House, US Capitol and National mall as a federal district.

It would be known as Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, after abolitionist Frederick Douglass who lived in the district from 1877 until his death in 1895.

The measure faces a tough road in the 50-50 divided Senate where Democrats control the chamber by way of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.

It would require 60 votes for passage in the Senate unless Democrats get rid of the filibuster that would allow for a simple majority vote.

But some moderate Democrats – Sens. Joe Manhcin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona — have been opposed to ditching the Senate rule.

The House passed an identical bill in 2020 but it died in the then-GOP-controlled Senate.

DC Statehood House vote
DC statehood was approved in a 216-208 vote along party lines.
C-SPAN

Jones (D-NY) drew condemnation from Republicans when he implied racist motivations were behind their objections to statehood for DC.

“One of my House Republican colleagues said that DC shouldn’t be a state because the district doesn’t have a landfill,” the freshman lawmaker continued. “My goodness, with all the racist trash my colleagues have brought to this debate I can see why they’re worried about having a place to put it.”

“I have had enough of my colleagues’ racist insinuations that somehow that people of Washington, DC, are incapable or even unworthy of our democracy,” he said in a floor speech.

He went on to say a Senate Republian said DC was unable to become a “well rounded, working-class state.”

“I had no idea there were so many syllables in the word white,” Jones said, referring to Sen. Tom Cotton’s comments last year comparing the district to Wyoming, which has a similar population.

As Jones spoke, Republicans immediately asked for his words to be struck, and the freshman Democrat ultimately agreed to withdraw his statements. 

After a few minutes of delay over his remarks, Jones said Republicans “desperate objections are about fear.”

“If they don’t rig our democracy they will not win,” Jones added. “Today Democrats are standing up for a multi-racial democracy.”

Local clergy hold a rally calling for "emancipation through DC statehood."
If approved by the Senate, Washington, DC, would become the 51st state.
REUTERS

Earlier, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said one solution to the “taxation without representation” argument made for statehood would be to allow DC residents not to pay federal income taxes.

But he said Democrats wouldn’t support that because they want the additional senators.

It was a thought echoed by other GOP lawmakers.

“Let’s be clear what H.R. 51 is all about: It’s about Democrats adding two new progressive U.S. senators to push a radical agenda championed by the ‘Squad’ to reshape America into the socialist utopia they always talk about,” said Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), referring to the group of progressive members, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

Sen. Ted Cruz characterized it as a power grab by Democrats.

“What Senate Democrats and House Democrats are trying to do is fundamentally corrupt, their first priority is to change the rules to stay in power,” the Texas Republican said, according to The Hill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds up a photograph of her father, Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., with Eleanor Roosevelt, as she speaks about the long fight for DC statehood.
Statehood for DC would likely hand Democrats two new senators.
AP

Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) said the Founding Fathers never intended for DC to become a state and said so in the Constitution.

“This is absolutely against what our founders intended and it ought to be soundly rejected,” he said on the House floor.

The Biden administration has supported the statehood push.

“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,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement earlier this week.

“This taxation without representation and denial of self-governance is an affront to the democratic values on which our Nation was founded.”

The city of Washington is home to more people than Vermont and Wyoming, but has no representation in Congress, as per Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.

Republicans are strongly opposed to DC statehood because it would expand the Senate to 102 members and the heavily Democratic district would elect two Democrats to the Senate.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), speaks during a news conference about statehood for the District of Columbia.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton at a news conference advocating for DC statehood.
Getty Images

It would also allow for an additional representative to serve in the House.

Speaking before the vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recalled her late father, Rep. Thomas D’Alesandro Jr. (D-Md.) serving in the district.

“This is a picture of my father, and the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. It was the first time he had a hearing as the chair of the District of Columbia Appropriations Subcommittee. As chair of that committee, he was known as the unofficial mayor of Washington, because sadly, the Congress had so much say over what happened in the District of Columbia, he did not support that,” she said at her weekly Capitol Hill briefing.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the longtime non-voting representative of DC, said statehood has been a lifelong mission.

“My service in the Congress has been dedicated to achieving equality for the people I represent, which only statehood can provide,” Norton said at a Wednesday news conference. “My life as a third-generation Washingtonian has marched toward this milestone.”

With Post wires

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