A bill to make the the District of Columbia the 51st state cleared the House of Representatives on Thursday, but it faces a major obstacle in the Senate’s 60-vote threshold.
Still, supporters of the effort believe that the idea of statehood for the District, which has the motto “Taxation without representation,” is farther along than in any previous efforts.
The House passed the bill, 216-208, with no Republicans voting for it.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pledged to try to push forward the legislation. “D.C. statehood is an idea whose time has come,” he said in a floor speech.
The Republican opposition has varied, but Schumer complained that “the far right, the hard right which seems to be so dominant in the party on the other side, is so afraid of losing political power—and so unwilling to appeal to anyone that doesn’t already agree with them—that their strategy has become to restrict voting rights and deny equal representation in Congress to hundreds of thousands of Americans.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said that DC statehood was “another ploy to consolidate power so they can jam through socialist policies like the Green New Deal, court packing and defunding of the police.”
The district has almost 700,000 residents. Since the ratification of the 23rd Amendment in 1961, it has been represented in presidential elections, with its three electoral votes going to Democrats every cycle since then. But the district’s two senators and one representative, all Democrats, do not have congressional voting rights.
The new state would be named Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, honoring George Washington and Frederick Douglass, while previous efforts have referred to the new state as New Columbia. The House passed a statehood bill last year, but it stalled in the Senate, then controlled by Republicans.