Politics | June 23, 2020 1:04 pm

DC Has a Real Shot at Becoming the 51st State

If Trump goes down in November, the U.S. may get a new addition

Bikers in front of the United States Capitol in Washington D.C.
Washington, D.C. may finally become one of the United States.
Andy Feliciotti/Unsplash

The District of Columbia already has a larger population than Wyoming and Vermont (roughly 706K residents compared to 579K and 624K, respectively), so why is granting statehood — and congressional representation — to the Americans living in our nation’s capital so controversial? 

Over at Vox, the arguments on both sides are laid out, as are the bars Washington, D.C. must clear in order to become the 51st state in America. But according to the publication, that possibility “is arguably closer than it’s ever been.”

Here’s where D.C. stands now: The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is expected to pass a statehood bill on June 26, marking “the first time in the nation’s history that either house of Congress approved legislation granting full statehood and congressional representation.” After that, the Republican-controlled Senate is not expected to take up the measure. But should Democrats sweep the presidency, House and Senate in the November elections, D.C. has a real chance of making it the 51 nifty United States (in which case we may have to change that song …). 

However, not even a legislative majority guarantees statehood, especially when the ramifications are politically fraught. (D.C.’s increased representation would most likely swing Democratic.) Vox outlines two ways Republicans could block the measure even in a worst-case-November-scenario: the filibuster and the right-leaning Supreme Court, which could use the 23rd Amendment (which granted the city Electoral College votes) in a roundabout way to deny statehood.

There are plenty of other issues that come into play, including the historical precedent set by Republicans for granting statehood in order to bolster power, but Stasha Rhodes, a campaign director at 51 for 51 which is organizing for statehood, put the argument in simple terms for Vox:

“From our perspective the Senate is broken and undemocratic. There are many examples of this, but the most blatant example is that 700,000 residents of Washington, DC, are not allowed to participate in the democracy that surrounds them.”

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