Washington, D.C. could become the country’s 51st state after statehood legislation passed in the House of Representatives on Thursday (April 22). The bill will now move on to the Senate where it will need to be approved before the capital city can officially become a state.
This is the second time a bill to make D.C. a state has been passed in the House. Last year, a prior version called H.R. 51 was approved but stalled in the Senate, which at that time was Republican-controlled. Now, Democrats have a slight majority in the Senate, with senators split 50-50 and Vice President Kamala Harris making up the tie-breaking vote.
Washington Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who sponsored the bill, and supporting Democrats have argued that D.C. residents deserve their own electoral representation. Under the legislation, D.C. would be recognized as a state and have two senators and one House representative.
The bill is supported by President Joe Biden. In a statement, his Office of Management and Budget said Tuesday (April 20), “This taxation without representation and denial of self-governance is an affront to the democratic values on which our Nation was founded.”
Opponents of the legislation criticize it as a Democratic “power grab.” On the House floor, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler called the bill “nothing more than an unconstitutional power grab by Democrats to gain two ultra-progressive D.C Senate seats [and] enforce radical, far-left policies on the American people.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who supports the bill, said last month that statehood is essential for ensuring fair representation for the city’s historically Black population.
“We know well the grave injustices our nation was built on,” she said Thursday. “We also know that progress has been made time and time again because elected leaders and everyday citizens had the courage and vision to demand a more inclusive democracy.”