The Senate is moving forward with an effort to make Washington D.C. the 51st state by scheduling a hearing for June 22. But final passage for statehood is still a longshot prospect in the 50-50 split upper chamber.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will convene a hearing on Tuesday on whether to grant Washington D.C. statehood status which would add one more representative and two senators to Congress.
Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a vocal DC statehood backer, is slated to testify along with Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, as well as several legal experts.
The House already passed D.C. statehood legislation in April but it would need 60 votes to advance in the Senate with the legislative filibuster in place, which means at least 10 Republicans would need to join with all Democrats. Republicans have widely panned the DC statehood effort as a Democratic power play to expand the Senate with representatives from a liberal stronghold and have questioned the constitutionality of making the federal district into a state.
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser, testifies at the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, on D.C. statehood, Monday, March 22, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Caroline Brehman/Pool via CQ Roll Call)
Democrats, however, have framed statehood for the district’s nearly 700,000 residents a civil rights issue and argued Washingtonians should no longer be taxed without full representation in government.
Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters, the chairman of the Homeland Security committee holding the hearing, said it’s time D.C. residents “have an equal say in the laws and decisions that govern them.”
Authors of the D.C. statehood legislation – D.C.’s delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton in the House and Delaware Sen. Tom Carper in the Senate – expressed optimism statehood could pass with Democrats in charge of Congress and a supportive President Biden in the White House.
“The Senate hearing shows that momentum continues to build for the D.C. statehood bill,” Holmes Norton said in a statement. “D.C. statehood now has 54% support nationwide, according to the most recent detailed poll, and I expect that support to grow even more after the Senate hearing, as it has after the House hearings. As only the second Senate hearing ever on D.C. statehood, next week will be historic.”
Under the plan, the 51st state would be called “Washington, Douglass Commonwealth,” named for Frederick Douglass. The state would consist of 66 of the 68 square miles of the present-day federal district.
D.C. would have full control over local affairs and full representation in Congress, which would amount to two senators and one representative in the House based on the current population.
The area around the White House, Capitol, Supreme Court and National Mall would be carved out into a federal district controlled by Congress and named the “Capital.”