In a historic, if ultimately doomed, vote on Friday, the House of Representatives approved making Washington, D.C., the country’s 51st state. The vote was very nearly along party lines (every Republican plus Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.) voted “no”), but it is expected to fail in the Republican-held Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he will not bring it to vote; the White House has additionally promised to veto the bill, The New York Times reports.
Supporters of the bill proposed that the two square-miles around the White House, Capitol Hill, Supreme Court, and other federal buildings would remain under congressional control while the rest of the District would become “the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth,” named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
At the root of the statehood argument is the question of representation. “People in the District of Columbia pay taxes, fight our wars, risk their lives for our democracy,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said ahead of the vote, per The Hill. “And yet … they have no vote in the House or the Senate about whether we go to war, and how those taxes are exacted, and how this is all played.”
“Washington, D.C., is the home to more Americans than two states, and more than 46 percent of the 700,000 residents are Black,” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) additionally argued. She added: “Make no mistake, race underlies every argument against D.C. statehood. And denying its citizens equal participation and representation is a racial, democratic, and economic injustice we cannot tolerate.”
Republican opponents have pointed out, though, that the District is a clear Democratic stronghold; 90.9 percent of voters backed Hillary Clinton in 2016, while just 4 percent voted for President Trump.
“Our nation’s founders made it clear that D.C. is not meant to be a state,” argued Republican Rep. Jody Hice (Ga.), which is true, although it’s not constitutionally forbidden, as others have claimed. “They thought about it, they debated it, and they rejected it.”
SOURCE: The Week – Jeva Lange