Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) led over three dozen of his Democrat colleagues to introduce a companion bill for Washington, D.C.’s statehood on Tuesday. A similar bill passed the House last year and will now face a Democrat-controlled Senate to determine if D.C. will become the 51st state.
The effort for statehood, which would endow the citizens of D.C. full representation in Congress and control over issues that affect the district, was started in 2013 by Carper.
The D.C. statehood effort has broad support among Democrats, who currently control the House, the White House, and potentially the Senate if they remove the legislative filibuster.
The Senate’s legislative filibuster stipulates that 60 votes are needed to end a debate on a bill and vote. However, a vote of 51 senators could remove the filibuster rule unless the two moderate Democrat senators who have recently gone on record against eliminating the 60-vote threshold keep their commitment.
Washington D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has pioneered the effort for statehood in the House and thanked Carper for reintroducing the statehood bill in the Senate.
“We are deeply indebted to Senator Carper for his unending efforts for D.C. statehood and his priority in reintroducing the Senate companion to our D.C. statehood bill this year with a record number of original cosponsors,” Norton said.
“In addition to Senator Carper’s good news, Speaker Pelosi and Leader Hoyer have already committed to bringing the D.C. statehood bill to the House floor again this Congress,” Norton added. “Democrats have the majority in the House and the Senate, and President Joe Biden supports D.C. statehood. This is the time we can finally correct this historic injustice and give D.C. residents the same rights as other taxpaying Americans.”
Carper’s bill has 38 cosponsors in the Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. President Joe Biden also supports D.C.’s statehood.
“The President has supported D.C. statehood in the past; that certainly remains his position. But I don’t have anything for you on the timeline or next steps there,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.
“This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue; it’s an American issue because the lack of fair representation for D.C. residents is clearly inconsistent with the values on which this country was founded,” Carper said in a statement. “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.”
Washington D.C. has a population that is larger than some states like Vermont, with a little more than 700,000 residents, and can vote in presidential elections.
However, critics in the Republican party argue that the effort to give D.C. statehood is a power grab and would tip the scales in Democrats’ favor.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) held a press conference detailing their opposition to the measure in July 2020, after the House passed the statehood bill.
Graham told reporters, “From a South Carolina point of view. This is not a good deal for us. Being two of 50 is better than being two out of 52. This would dilute South Carolina’s say in the United States Senate and it would empower the most radical agenda in modern American politics. This is not about enfranchising people, this is about expanding the Senate map to accommodate the most radical agenda that I’ve ever seen since I’ve been up here, getting more radical by the day.”