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.
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.