The House of Representatives Passes DC Statehood Bill — Again

  • April 22nd 2021

by Nena Perry-Brown

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For the second year in a row, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the bill that would grant statehood to the District of Columbia. 

Just before noon on Thursday, the House passed HR 51, this time by a vote of 216 to 208 compared to last year's vote of 232-180. 

If the statehood bill were to be signed into law, the "nation's capital" would consist of a two-square-mile federal enclave surrounding the National Mall and various federal government buildings, while the remainder of the city would become the state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth. The text of the constitution of the state of DC, approved in 2016, is available here.

2016 map of the proposed federal enclave. Click to enlarge.

The debate in the House today was just as, if not more, impassioned than debate on the bill has been previously. Most of the contention on both sides of the aisle was about whether statehood for DC is truly about enfranchisement and taxation without representation, or if statehood is purely a political ploy. 

"Let me be clear what Republican opposition is really about: partisanship," Representative Carolyn Maloney said in her opening statement. "They would rather deny voting rights for hundreds of thousands of American citizens than even consider the possibility that representatives from the new state could possibly be Democrats."

Representative James Comer's opening statement on behalf of the Republicans perhaps validated this point, going further to accuse the other party of attempting to create a "socialist utopia": "America's government should be of the people, by the people, and for the people, but with HR 51, the government will become of the Democrats, by the Democrats, and for the Democrats."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer later sought to suck the wind out of this argument by pointing out the political motivations behind the admission of other states.

"When my friends across the aisle complain that this bill would lead to the addition of two Democratic senators, so what? Is that the criteria, the political judgment of the citizens of some entity seeking to become a state? It is the politics of it, but not the principle."

However, Hoyer's acknowledgment of the politics was referenced by several Republican representatives as an admission of impure intentions in their subsequent arguments. A few of those representatives reiterated the oft-posited Republican "offer" of retroceding DC to Maryland, a point exposed as contradictory to another Republican argument that the Constitution intended to prevent any one state from having influence over the federal capital.

Perhaps the most suspenseful part of today's proceedings, however, came after the debate when Representative Griffith introduced a motion to send the bill back to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. At the end of the initial 15 minute voting period, the motion was passing 65-56. However, voting on the motion continued for another 15 minutes, with it eventually failing by a 215-205 vote.

The fate of the bill in the Senate is still doubtful. 

Thumbnail photo courtesy of Ted Eytan.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/house-of-representatives-passes-statehood-bill-again/18168.

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