Democratic push for D.C. statehood faces uphill battle with divided party, filibuster ahead

by Joel Abbott · Feb 17th, 2021 1:58 pm

Last Updated Feb 18th, 2021 at 9:40 pm

The Democratic call for Washington, D.C., to receive statehood has been renewed by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district's non-voting member of the House, but the effort faces difficulties even in a Democratic-controlled Congress.

In the House, 210 Democrats are co-sponsoring the bill, with 39 additional co-sponsors in the Senate.

The bill would grant the federal district official statehood, allowing them one House representative and two Senators – a move Republicans have decried as an attempt to pack a divided Senate in Democrats' favor, as Washington is a heavily left-leaning city.

The effort passed in the House during the last session of Congress, but faces not only a Republican filibuster attempt in the Senate that would require 60 votes to overcome, but also divided opinions on the issue within the Democratic Party.

"The filibuster is just a procedural issue about whether debate ends and it proceeds to a vote," said Paul Strauss, the non-voting senator for D.C. "So obviously, if you don't get past the filibuster, you don't get a vote, but in order to get the vote you need 51 votes. Do we have 51 votes today? I can't with confidence, say that we do. We know we've got at least 40."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has previously slammed such legislation.

"They want to pack the Supreme Court with liberals intent on eroding our constitutional rights," he said last summer. "And they want to codify all this by making the swamp itself — Washington, D.C. — America's 51st state. With two more liberal senators we cannot undo the damage they've done."

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) also argued last year that the majority of Americans are against statehood for D.C.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Dusty Johnson (SD) has reintroduced a measure that would give most of D.C. back to Maryland. The city was originally created by America's founding fathers as a neutral space for the seat of federal government, ensuring no single state had more power over others.

Rep. Norton criticized Johnson's initiative, saying "a huge majority of D.C. residents (86%) voted for statehood in a 2016 referendum."


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