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Democrats introduce bill to make Washington, D.C., the 51st state

While the Democratic-controlled House could pass the bill again, its chances of clearing the Senate are nil.
A man holds a Washington, D.C., flag during a House committee hearing on D.C. statehood on Feb. 11, 2020.
A man holds a Washington, D.C., flag during a House committee hearing on D.C. statehood on Feb. 11, 2020.Caroline Brehman / CQ-Roll Call via AP

WASHINGTON — House and Senate Democrats introduced legislation Wednesday that would make Washington, D.C., the 51st state.

The measure was reintroduced in the House by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who represents the District of Columbia, and its companion was unveiled in the Senate by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. As of Tuesday evening, Norton said that she had more than 200 co-sponsors in the House.

“There’s never been a time when statehood for the District was more likely," Norton said in a statement, adding the bill was passed by the House last year for the first time and now had a "record" 202 co-sponsors. With the Senate companion bill also gaining co-sponsors, "we’re ready to achieve voting representation and full local self-government for the 712,000+ residents of the District of Columbia,” she said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., have committed to bringing the bill to the floor for a vote, Norton said. She added that with Democrats in the majority in the House and the Senate, and with President Joe Biden's support, “this is the time we can finally correct this historic injustice and give D.C. residents the same rights as other taxpaying Americans.”

While the bill could pass again in the House, which remains in Democratic control, its chances of clearing the Senate are nil. Democrats control the Senate because, with a 50-50 split, Vice President Kamala Harris can cast tie-breaking votes. But Democrats would need to overcome a filibuster, requiring 60 votes, for the legislation to pass, meaning they would need at least 10 Republicans to join them. Many GOP lawmakers have expressed opposition to statehood for D.C. because its congressional representation would almost certainly be Democratic.

Carper, however, said in a statement that D.C. statehood isn’t “a Republican or Democratic issue.”

“It’s an American issue because the lack of fair representation given to the residents of D.C. is inconsistent with the values on which this country was founded,” he said. “It is therefore incumbent upon all of us who enjoy the right and the privilege of full voting rights and representation to take up the cause of our fellow citizens in the District of Columbia.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser applauded the move Wednesday.

“Generations of Washingtonians have been denied the right to participate in our democracy — to have their voices and votes heard in Congress, to help shape the future of our nation, and to have a say on Supreme Court justices,” she wrote on Twitter.