The House Oversight Committee’s proposal to grant Washington, D.C., statehood — establishing the nation’s Capital as the 51st state of the Union — was sent to the chamber on Feb. 11. The bill, H.R. 5803, was passed with a vote of 21-16. The bill would grant approximately 700,000 Washingtonians voting representation in the U.S. Congress and, by extension, an electoral vote during national elections. In addition, Washington would gain a permanent increase in representation by allowing the election of two state senators and one representative in Congress. Washington residents pay the highest per-capita federal income tax in the U.S. but receive about 25% of its budget from the federal government.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) showed their support for the bill. Republican oppositional voices cited the nation’s capital should be required to go through a lengthy constitutional amendment process in order to gain full statehood rights. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised to oppose any advancement of said bill throughout the duration of his leadership term.
Norton has proposed a version of the statehood bill every term since she first assumed office in 1991. Because she is a non-voting delegate, she is constitutionally prohibited from voting on any legislation affecting Washington residents. However, the DC Statehood agenda has rallied support from Democratic members of Congress such as Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD).
H.R. 5803 must now pass to the Senate to be subject to a vote to become law. If passed, the District of Columbia would be renamed Washington, Douglass Commonwealth after abolitionist and Washington resident Frederick Douglass.