House passes bill to make Washington DC the 51st state

Key Points
  • The House passes a bill to make Washington, D.C., the 51st U.S. state. 
  • Republicans oppose the legislation and are unlikely to pass it in the Senate. 
  • Washington, D.C., which has long decried having to pay taxes without voting representation in Congress, would get one representative and two senators. 
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) greets Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser during a joint news conference in advance of Friday's historic House vote on District of Columbia statehood bill on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 25, 2020.
Yuri Gripas | Reuters

House Democrats passed a bill Friday to make Washington, D.C., the 51st U.S. state, a historic move unlikely to gain traction in the Republican-held Senate. 

The chamber approved it by a 232-180 vote. 

The legislation would give Washington residents, who have long decried the fact that they pay federal taxes but have no voting representation in Congress, one House member and two senators. A smaller area encompassing the White House, U.S. Capitol, and other federal buildings and monuments would remain under U.S. oversight. 

Washington's longtime nonvoting House delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced the bill, which would change the name of the district to the state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth. In advocating for the legislation Friday, she noted that D.C.'s population of about 700,000 is larger than that of Wyoming or Vermont, and that the district pays more federal taxes than 22 states. 

"As we approach July 4th, it is long past time to apply the nation's oldest slogan, 'no taxation without representation,' and the principle of consent of the governed to District of Columbia residents," Norton said. 

GOP senators have opposed D.C. statehood and look unlikely to take up the legislation. President Donald Trump has also criticized the legislation. 

But if Democrats can win control of the White House and Senate in November, D.C. could get another shot at becoming a state next year. 

Republicans, who aim to keep control of the Senate this year as Democrats vie for a handful of seats, have often cited a desire not to see a heavily Democratic city gain two seats in the chamber. 

"DC will never be a state," the president told the New York Post in May. "You mean District of Columbia, a state? Why? So we can have two more Democratic — Democrat senators and five more congressmen? No thank you. That'll never happen." (Washington would only have one House member, not five as Trump said.)

Some Democratic lawmakers saw GOP arguments against admitting D.C. as veiled efforts to deny representation to an area where nearly half the residents are Black.

Speaking on the House floor Friday, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said "race underlies every argument against D.C. statehood" and called a continued lack of representation an "injustice."

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