Will Washington, DC become the 51st US state? Children’s news article
On April 22, 2021, for the second consecutive year, the United States House of Representatives voted 216 to 208 to make Washington, DC, the nation’s 51st state. Although the symbolically entitled bill HR 51 is identical to that voted on June 26, 2020, the legislation was never put to the vote of the then Republican-controlled Senate. However, this time around the bill — which has the support of President Joe Biden and Democratic Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer — will be heard in the upper house of Congress.
Why is Washington, DC a district?
The U.S. Constitution states that the seat of U.S. government shall be a “district” (not exceeding 10 square miles) over which Congress “shall exercise exclusive law in all cases whatever.” The measure was put in place to ensure that no state could cede unjust power by hosting the national government.
To keep neutrality, the District of Columbia’s Organic Act of 1801 disenfranchised residents in all federal elections, including for president. The 23rd Amendment, ratified in 1961, restored all voting rights. However, it states that regardless of its population growth, DC cannot have more the electoral college votes than the least of the nation people state – Wyoming, which has only three voters.
In 1973, DC residents were finally allowed to elect local government, including a mayor and a council. However, the U.S. Congress continues to have the power to modify and review the city’s budget and strike down any laws it does not like. Therefore, despite paying more federal taxes per inhabitant than residents of any other U.S. state, the 700,000 residents of the nation’s capital are at pity legislators. Residents also do not have formal representation in the Senate and only one non-voting House delegate, which means they have no appointed legislator to defend them in Congress.
Promoters of HR 51 think that all these issues will be resolved if DC becomes a state. “For far too long, the more than 700,000 residents of Washington, D.C., have been private full representation to the United States Congress,” said a statement from the White House Office of Management and Budget. “This taxation without representation and denial of autonomy is an affront to the democratic values upon which our nation was founded.
Would making DC a state require a constitutional amendment?
opponents of statehood argue that any change to DC’s current status would require a constitution amendment. However, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the delegate from the District of Columbia, who sponsored the legislationsays HR 51 does not eliminate the “seat of government” – it simply reduces it from the maximum 10 square miles allowed by the US Constitution to a smaller area of 2 square miles. The new “District” would be encompass all federal buildings and the monuments – including the White House, the United States Capitol, the National Mall and the Supreme Court.
Does a House approval guarantee a vote in the Senate?
The House vote, which strictly toed party lines, with Democrats voting for and Republicans voting against the measure, does not guarantee passage of the bill in the Senate. Although the Democrats, who hold half the seats, can count on the decisive vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, the Senate currently needs at least 60 votes to pass new legislation. Therefore, for HR 51 to pass, ten Senate Republicans would have to vote yes, which is extremely unlikely,
Lawmakers could change the requirement to a simple majority, but that would still require all 50 Democratic senators to vote in favor of HR 51. On April 30, 2021, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, told a radio station local radio that he would not vote for DC statehood. “If Congress wants to make DC a state, it should come up with a constitutional amendment,” Manchin said. “Let the American people vote.”
Fellow Democratic Senator and former astronaut Mark Kelly of Arizona is also lukewarm at the idea. “I haven’t made a decision on that one way or the other,” Kelly told reporters on Capitol Hill shortly after the House vote. “I will make a decision based on what is in the best interest of our country.”
The timeline for consideration of the proposal in the Senate remains uncertain. However, most experts believe that even if the bill passes, the battle will be implied in court for many years. Regardless of the outcome, Ms. Norton is happy with the progress she has made since her first bid for DC statehood in 1993, when more than 100 House Democrats opposed the idea.
If adopted, what will the new state be called?
Since we already have a state called Washington, Ms Norton suggests naming the new addition Washington State, Douglass Commonwealth – after the country’s first president and famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who lived in DC from 1877 to 1895.
Resources: WashingtonPost.com, NPR.com. Whitehouse.gov, Usatoday.con