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Constitutional scholars say congressional proclamation could make DC a state

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A group of congressional law scholars wrote to members of Congress indicating that they believed the legislature had the power to pass a law admitting Washington, D.C., as the 51st state without going through the constitutional amendment process.

In a letter first reported by NBC News, nearly 40 constitutional scholars including Harvard’s Lawrence Tribe and the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato wrote that Washington, D.C., could join the union via congressional proclamation, “just like the 37 other states that have been admitted since the Constitution was adopted.”

“As scholars of the United States Constitution, we write to correct claims that the D.C. Admission Act is vulnerable to a constitutional challenge in the courts,” their letter reportedly continued.

Their certainty about the statehood push’s legality could strengthen calls from advocates for D.C. statehood, including top District of Columbia officials such as Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the District’s nonvoting member of Congress.

Legislation to make D.C. a state would still have to pass a split Senate where Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has already indicated that he agrees with Republican arguments claiming that the District’s admittance as a state would require a constitutional amendment due to the requirement that the country’s seat of government not be its own state.

The D.C. statehood bill currently being pushed by some Democrats would reduce the size of the District to include the White House, Capitol and National Mall, while most of the city and surrounding suburbs would become a new state.

The Biden administration formally supports the idea, but not all Democratic-caucusing members of the Senate have yet signed on and it has no public GOP support.

Tags D.C. statehood Eleanor Holmes Norton Joe Manchin Muriel Bowser

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