The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday (April 22) narrowly voted, for the second time in less than a year, to make the District of Columbia the 51st state, sending it to the Senate where it faces stiff Republican opposition.
By a vote of 216-208, the Democratic-controlled House approved the initiative with no Republican support.
The population of Washington, D.C., is heavily Democratic. As a state, it likely would elect two Democratic senators, potentially altering the balance of power in the Senate, which now has 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans.
The new state would be named “Washington, Douglass Commonwealth” after George Washington, the first U.S. president, and Frederick Douglass, a former enslaved person who became a famous abolitionist.
Statehood would also give Washington at least one House member.
Its population of around 700,000 is more than that of the states of Wyoming and Vermont. About half of its residents are Black.
Currently, Washington, D.C., has only one member of Congress -Eleanor Holmes Norton, a House “delegate” who is not allowed to vote on legislation.
“Congress has a choice. It can continue to exclude D.C. residents from the democratic process…or it can live up to our nation’s founding principles, join the 54 percent of Americans, that is 54 percent, Mr. Speaker, and growing who support D.C. statehood and pass H.R.51,” Norton said.
Republicans, accusing Democrats of a “power grab” to advance a “far-left” agenda, are expected to block the bill in the Senate, where 60 of 100 members need to agree to advance most legislation.
“Let’s be clear what H.R.51 is all about. It’s about Democrats adding two new progressive US senators to push a radical agenda championed by the squad to reshape America into the socialist utopia they always talk about,” said Jamer Comer, a Republican representative from Kentucky.
The House first passed this bill last June by a vote of 232-180. Republicans, who controlled the Senate then, refused to act on it.
(Production: Pavithra George)