The House of Representatives approved a measure that would grant statehood to Washington, D.C. in a party-line vote on Thursday.
The legislation, which passed 216-208, would create the new state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, and give it one representative and two senators. The bill has been the subject of intense opposition from Republicans, since D.C. would provide overwhelming Democratic representation.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D., Calif.), sporting a “D.C. 51” face mask at the news conference, stated that the vote would “reaffirm the truth that all deserve a voice in our democracy.”
The Biden administration has professed its strong support for the bill. The White House released a statement Tuesday calling Washington’s current district status “an affront to the democratic values on which our Nation was founded.”
Since Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House, Republicans will likely be forced to rely on the filibuster to block the D.C. statehood bill.
Opponents of D.C. statehood believe that the District of Columbia should not be admitted to the union since it is the seat of the federal government and as such has interests that diverge from the rest of the nation. Some have proposed alternatives to statehood such as exempting Washingtonians from federal taxation and “retroceding” most of D.C. back into Maryland.
Zack Smith, a legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, argued before Congress last month that D.C.’s status can only be changed through a constitutional amendment since its creation and purpose provisions are enumerated in Article I of the Constitution. He claimed that the framers of the Constitution “intended this to be a federal district outside the jurisdiction of any one state.”
Smith predicted that lawsuits and litigation would follow a D.C. statehood bill passing in Congress. “Every legislative act of this new state would be called into question. … Things would be in a state of flux for years,” Smith said.
Democrats have advocated granting statehood to Puerto Rico, another predominantly Democratic jurisdiction that would provide a further electoral advantage.