Politics

Biden administration backs D.C. statehood, urges 'swift' action as House prepares to vote on bill

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Key Points
  • The Biden administration on Tuesday formally threw its support behind a long-shot bid from Democrats to make Washington, D.C., the 51st state.
  • Congress should "provide for a swift and orderly transition to statehood" for D.C., the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement of administration policy.
  • The White House's full-throated support for Washington's statehood came days before the House is set to vote on a bill that would put the commonwealth on "equal footing with the other states."
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The Biden administration supports making Washington, D.C. the 51st state

The Biden administration on Tuesday formally threw its support behind a long-shot bid from Democrats to make Washington, D.C., the 51st state.

Congress should "provide for a swift and orderly transition to statehood" for the more than 700,000 Washington residents who do not have full voting representation in the House and Senate, the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement of administration policy.

The White House's full-throated support for D.C. statehood came days before the House is set to vote on a bill that would put the commonwealth on "equal footing with the other states."

The legislation, H.R. 51, is expected to pass in the House but is likely to hit roadblocks in the Senate, where 60 votes are required to overcome the filibuster.

"The residents of our nation's capital deserve voting representation in Congress and full local self-government," said Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington's Democratic delegate in the House and the bill's sponsor, in a statement applauding the OMB.

"With Thursday's House vote and expected passage, along with Democratic control of the Senate and White House, we have never been closer to statehood," she said.

Activists hold signs as they take part in a rally in support of DC statehood near the US Capitol in Washington, DC on March 22, 2021.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

Activists have long pushed for Washington to be recognized as a state — with city leaders going so far as to put the protest slogan "Taxation Without Representation" on D.C. license plates — but the issue has historically stayed off the national radar.

Now, most Democratic lawmakers back the idea — and they're pushing harder than ever in the wake of the 2020 election cycle, in which the party gained control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Republicans have broadly balked at the statehood proposal. Some accuse Democrats of attempting to use their current, slim political majorities to cement themselves in power by adding reliably Democratic seats to Congress.

"D.C. statehood is a key part of the radical leftist agenda to reshape America, along with the Green New Deal, defunding the police and packing the U.S. Supreme Court," said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., in a congressional hearing last month.

But proponents of statehood, including Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, argue that the issue is one of securing voting rights in a plurality-Black area.

President Joe Biden officially revealed his stance last month, when White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that he "believes they deserve representation, that's why he supports D.C. statehood."

But Tuesday's statement from the White House budget office fleshes out the administration's views and specifically backs Norton's pending legislation.

"For far too long, the more than 700,000 people of Washington, D.C. have been deprived of full representation in the U.S. Congress," the OMB said.

"This taxation without representation and denial of self-governance is an affront to the democratic values on which our Nation was founded. H.R. 51 rights this wrong by making Washington, D.C. a state and providing its residents with long overdue full representation in Congress, while maintaining a Federal District that will continue to serve as our Nation's seat of government," the office said.

The bill, which boasts more than 200 co-sponsors, passed through the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Wednesday on a party-line vote. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said he plans to bring H.R. 51 to a floor vote on Thursday.

"The voice of every American citizen deserves to be heard — it's past time that we make statehood a reality for DC," Hoyer tweeted Friday.