Senate to hold hearing on DC statehood bill

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)
Greg Nash

A Senate committee next week will hold a hearing for legislation to make Washington, D.C., the country’s 51st state, Washington Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) announced Tuesday.

“The Senate hearing shows that momentum continues to build for our D.C. statehood bill,” the longtime D.C. House delegate said in a statement, noting that this is only the second time the upper chamber has held a hearing on the issue. 

“D.C. statehood now has 54 percent support nationwide, according to the most recent detailed poll, and I expect that support to grow even more after the Senate hearing, as it has after the House hearings,” Norton said.

The hearing will be conducted by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

Norton is the city’s lone representation in the legislative body, and while she can sit on House committees, she can’t participate in floor votes.

The bill is backed by President Biden and it has been approved by the House, most recently in April.

Republicans oppose making D.C. a state and see the effort as a power grab on the part of Democrats, who would almost certainly gain two Democratic senators given the District’s political leanings.

Proponents of statehood have long argued it is racist for the city, which has historically been majority Black, to not be a state and to have no voting representation in Congress. D.C.’s population is now just under 50 percent Black and it is majority minority overall.

Without bipartisan support, the bill can’t clear the 60-vote threshold of the Senate filibuster, a problem many of Democrats’ legislative priorities face. Moreover, moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) are firmly against getting rid of the procedural rule. 

And Manchin has said that he doesn’t support the bill, arguing that a constitutional amendment is needed to make D.C. a state.

H.R. 51 takes a different approach to making the nation’s capital a state. The capital wouldn’t cease to exist, but rather be shrunk to include the National Mall, monuments, White House and other federal buildings. The rest of the city would become the new state. The few people residing inside the new federal capital would be able to vote in the state where they previously lived. 

H.R. 51 also includes a provision that would fast-track the repeal of the 23rd Amendment, which currently gives D.C. electoral votes in presidential elections.

Support for D.C. statehood grew last year, in part because the District’s shortcomings as a hybrid city-state have captured the nation’s attention multiple times within the past year.

People across the country became aware of the District’s inability to control its own National Guard last summer amid protests over the police murder of George Floyd; D.C.’s National Guard is under federal, rather than local, control.

The technicality surfaced again during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, when the National Guard was delayed in aiding Capitol Police.

Additionally, Norton and other D.C. statehood proponents have publicized the fact that the city pays more federal taxes per capita than any state in the country and more than 20 states overall. With a population of roughly 700,000, D.C. is more populous than Vermont and Wyoming and comparable to a couple other states.

Tags DC statehood Eleanor Holmes Norton Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema

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