The House is expected to vote next week on a measure that would make Washington, D.C. a state, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced on Tuesday. The measure, dubbed H.R. 51 — to denote that D.C. would be the fifty-first state — is expected to pass in the Democratic-controlled House, but will likely face steep opposition in the Senate.
With a population of over 700,000, the District of Columbia is larger than Wyoming and Vermont. However, D.C. residents have no voting representation in Congress. Eleanor Holmes Norton represents D.C. in Congress as a non-voting delegate. The Washington, D.C. Admission Act would establish the state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, referring to famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The new state would have two senators and one representative in the House.
"Our country is one of the only democratic nations on Earth that still denies voting rights to the residents of its capital city," Oversight Committee Chairwoman Caroline Maloney said in a statement Tuesday. "As millions of Americans cry out for equality under the law, I urge my colleagues to correct this historic wrong and support this landmark legislation to give basic human rights to the disenfranchised citizens of the District of Columbia."
The district skews heavily Democratic, so Republican senators have expressed opposition to admitting another state to the union that could upset the partisan balance of the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that D.C. statehood would not get a vote in the Senate as long as he is leader. Activists have called forin the Senate in order to push D.C. statehood through, since that would remove the 60-vote threshold and allow the Senate to approve the measure with only 51 votes. However, it would also likely face a veto by President Trump.
Mr. Trump said in May that Republicans would be "very, very stupid" to allow D.C. to become a state.
"D.C. will never be a state," Trump told the New York Post. "You mean District of Columbia, a state? Why? So we can have two more Democratic — Democrat senators and five more congressmen? No, thank you. That'll never happen."
In an interview with the Washington Post Monday, Hoyer said he believed D.C. statehood would have been approved long ago if it were "a Republican city and a white city." The district is majority-minority with a large black population.
"What kind of a concept is that, that if I move to my nation's Capitol, I will be less of a citizen in America?" Hoyer said in a press conference announcing the vote on Tuesday.
The vote comes amid escalating tensions between the Trump administration and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, after Mr. Trump sent federal law enforcement officers to quell protests against racial violence in the district in recent weeks. Earlier this month, law enforcement outside the White Houseto remove peaceful protesters before the president walked across the street for a photo opportunity in front of a damaged historic church.
The city government tacitly responded by naming the area outside the White House "Black Lives Matter Plaza" and painting a largeon the street. In the press conference on Tuesday, Bowser said that deploying federal law enforcement "violated our principles of local autonomy."
The last time the House voted on D.C. statehood was in 1993, and the vote failed with a tally of 277 to 153.