Eleanor Holmes Norton, Delate to the US House of Representatives representing the District of Columbia, speaks at a press conference ahead of the House vote to grant the District statehood at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on April 21, 2021. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
Washington, D.C.–It’s the second time the House has approved such legislation in two years, but the statehood bill, long a goal for the nation’s capital, faces an uphill climb in a Senate evenly divided between the two parties.
Winning a vote in the Senate would likely require ending the filibuster that requires most legislation to clear a 60-vote hurdle. Even then, not all 50 Democrats in the Senate back making D.C. a state.

The 216-208 House vote on H.R. 51, named to reflect that D.C. would become the nation’s 51st state, comes as Democrats have stepped up their efforts on a series of measures aimed at racial justice.

For decades, D.C. was a majority Black city; today, its population is just under 50 percent Black.

The White House on Tuesday formally declared its support for the legislation, saying it would provide the residents of the District with “long overdue full representation in Congress.”

Republicans have opposed giving D.C. statehood, in part because it would likely lead to two more Democratic senators and a Democratic House member, given the district population’s political leanings. President Biden won the District’s three electoral votes in last year’s election with 92 percent of the vote.

They have also offered other arguments against statehood, stating the founders didn’t intend for the city to be a state, or that it would be better for Washington to become part of an existing state such as Maryland. One Republican lawmaker said D.C. should not be a state because it has no car dealerships. The District actually has a number of dealerships.

Washington, D.C., has three electoral votes, but its House delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), cannot vote on legislation.

Norton and House Democratic leadership have repeatedly pushed back against GOP criticism of the bill, saying that the political leaning of the District is irrelevant when it comes to making sure all Americans are fairly represented in Congress.

She and other advocates have pointed out that the District pays more federal taxes per capita than any state in the country and more than over 20 states overall. Its population — just over 700,000 — is greater than that of Vermont and Wyoming and comparable to a couple other states.

H.R. 51 would make most of the District a new state through a novel process. The capital wouldn’t cease to exist, but rather be shrunk to include the National Mall, monuments, White House and other federal buildings. The rest of the city would become the new state.

The few people residing inside the new federal capital would be able to vote in the state where they previously lived.
H.R. 51 also includes a provision that would fast-track the repeal of the 23rd Amendment, which currently gives D.C. electoral votes in presidential elections.