On June 26, House Democrats approved a bill to make the nation’s capital the 51st state of the United States.
Arguments were presented in favor of making Washington a fully-vetted state government, citing that the overall population of the region is comparable to larger states with a smaller population. In addition, Washingtonians are obliged to pay federal taxes despite having no say in Congress.
The House bill H.R. 51 had 227 cosponsors. This is an unprecedented milestone, considering that the first statehood bill was proposed in 1993. DC statehood has also been proposed by Eleanor Holmes Norton throughout her entire tenure as Congresswoman. Norton argued that the now well over 700,000 residents of the District of Columbia should be eligible for the exact same federal funded benefits that other Americans are, including the $755 million dollars of Coronavirus relief funds that were denied them due to their status as a territory.
Washington’s lack of statehood has also allowed the Federal Police and the National Guard to occupy the territory without the consent of the local government. Mayor Muriel Bowser was forced to invoke the 3rd amendment to mitigate tensions around protests in the downtown DC area.
Most of the detractors of the bill have been Republicans who cite the constitutional requirements that Washington remain a territory. The Senate still must decide on whether to pass the bill, and many believe that the majority Republican Senate will likely kill the bill until unless a party switch occurs in November. President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell have already vocalized opposition in previous discussions of statehood.