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Bowser on Manchin's DC statehood stance: He's 'not right'

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel BowserMuriel BowserWhite House to host large outdoor gathering for July 4 DC board votes to lift last COVID-19 restrictions on bars, restaurants Hogan announces Maryland will close mass vaccination sites, shift to local clinics MORE (D) took aim at moderate Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinProgressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC US, EU pledge to work together on climate amid reported dissension on coal Senate to hold hearing on DC statehood bill MORE (D-W.Va.) on Thursday, saying that his stance that a constitutional amendment is required for D.C. to become the country’s 51st state was “not right.”

“You asked me if the senator was right in saying that a constitutional amendment is required for D.C. statehood,” Bowser said to The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart in a live streamed interview.

“He is not right, if that's what he said,” Bowser continued. “We know that all of the states, outside of the first 13, have been admitted to the Union by the Congress; it is the exclusive power of the Congress to pass by simple legislation on the admission of new states.”

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Manchin, perhaps the most conservative Democrat in Congress, had long stayed silent on his views regarding the statehood bill H.R. 51, before finally making his stance known last week. He told reporters in his home state that he believed the only way for the District to become a state was through a constitutional amendment.

"I would tell all my friends ... if you go down that path because you want to be politically popular ... you know it's going to go to the Supreme Court," Manchin said last Friday, signaling that he would not support the bill.

Residents of D.C. have long fought for statehood, but it has gained national support in the past year, as Americans watched the nation’s capital struggle with not being able to have authority over its own National Guard, which is under federal control. 

H.R. 51 passed through the House without Republican support two weeks ago, marking the second time the bill has made it to the Senate in as many years.

Unlike the first time the bill passed, Democrats have a tie-breaking advantage in the evenly split Senate, but as it stands now, getting H.R. 51 to President BidenJoe BidenMellman: Trump voters cling to 2020 tale FDA authorizes another batch of J&J vaccine Cotton warns of China collecting athletes' DNA at 2022 Olympics MORE’s desk remains a herculean task, something that Bowser acknowledged.

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“I don't think we're in any different place than before those comments that Sen. Manchin made,” Bowser said. “We were always going to have to get more support in the Senate.”

The greatest hurdle is the filibuster, which Manchin staunchly opposes axing. Even if the filibuster was somehow done away with, without Manchin’s support, the bill wouldn’t have the 50 votes needed to trigger Vice President Harris's tie-breaking vote.

Additionally, other moderates in the caucus, including Arizona Sens. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaSenate to hold hearing on DC statehood bill Progressives threaten to block bipartisan infrastructure proposal Hundreds in West Virginia protest Manchin's opposition to voting rights legislation MORE and Mark KellyMark KellyPast criticism of Trump becomes potent weapon in GOP primaries Arizona AG Mark Brnovich launches Senate challenge to Mark Kelly Arizona Democrats launch voter outreach effort ahead of key Senate race MORE and Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenCosmetic chemicals need a makeover How Biden can get the infrastructure bill through Congress Pelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals MORE (D-N.H.) have yet to make their stance on D.C. statehood clear.

H.R. 51 would make most of the District a new state through a novel process. The capital wouldn’t cease to exist, but rather be shrunk to include the National Mall, monuments, the 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. 

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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.

GOP lawmakers have been steadfast in their opposition, labeling H.R. 51 as a blatant power grab by Democrats in an attempt to get another pair of Democratic senators, given the District’s strong liberal tilt.

Proponents of D.C. statehood have countered this criticism with their own, saying that Republican angst over the bill is nothing more than thinly veiled racism. For decades, D.C. was a majority Black city; today, its population is just under 50 percent Black. 

Bowser reiterated in her interview that the push for statehood is solely about giving the District’s 700,000-plus residents proper representation in Congress.

“For us, it’s not a partisan issue, it’s a matter of fairness,” Bowser said. “Our country was founded on the principle of, people who are taxed have to be represented, and in the nation's capital, we're being taxed and we're not represented.”

D.C. pays more federal taxes per capita than any state in the country — a fact that Bowser and other Democratic lawmakers are quick to point out — and more than over 20 states overall.

Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonSenate to hold hearing on DC statehood bill Shakespeare gets a congressional hearing in this year's 'Will on the Hill' Constitutional scholars say congressional proclamation could make DC a state MORE (D) is the District’s lone representation in Congress, and while she can propose bills and sit on House committees, she cannot vote on legislation.