The move to establish a new state in the US capital, Washington, DC, is politically motivated, say experts, who have dismissed the latest political movement as unlikely to succeed.
The campaign’s slogan “taxation without representation” can be seen on license plates across the US capital, where residents are required to pay taxes – without having any representatives in Congress.
On Friday, the Democratic-controlled Congress took a step toward changing this situation and adopted a bill that would make Washington, DC, the 51st state in the United States.
Despite the bill passing by 232-180, no Republicans supported the bill. At the same time, President Donald Trump has voiced his opposition to such a move and the Republican-led Senate will almost certainly strike it down.
The last time the US expanded its states was 1959, when Congress approved admitting Alaska and Hawaii as the 49th and 50th states respectively, following congressional votes and the president’s support.
Friday’s move is seen by experts and officials as strictly politically motivated for Democrats to be able to elect two more senators from the district that has an estimated population of 700,000.
If there is a constitutional way to turn Washington, D.C. into a state, HR 51 is not it. This bill is a farcical exercise in legislative virtue signaling. I urged my colleagues to vote for the Constitution & vote against HR 51. pic.twitter.com/OFfFtAvFzg— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) June 27, 2020
Laws passed by the DC government must also pass through Congress. The argument to make DC a state gained traction after the US government dished out $1.2 billion in coronavirus relief aid to states. Washington, DC was given $500 million.
Under the “Washington, D.C. Admission Act,” the DC mayor would call for the “first elections to Congress of two Senators and one Representative of the commonwealth.”
A former member of the Virginia House, David Ramadan, said this would never pass. “It will never pass through Senate during Republican-majority because it would add two Democratic senators,” said the former official, now at the Schar School of Government at George Mason University.
DC has one representative that can participate in congressional committees but does not have the right to vote on the legislative floor. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, has represented the district since 1991.
Momentum has been building for the #DCStatehood bill in the Senate as more senators have become cosponsors. Today’s House passage keeps the fire ignited. I thank @SenatorCarper and our allies for their tireless work on DC statehood. The fight for the next step continues.— Eleanor Holmes Norton (@EleanorNorton) June 26, 2020
In total, there are 435 members of Congress and 100 senators – two from each state.
Currently, Congress is divided between 235 Democrats and 199 Republicans. In the Senate, 53 seats are taken by the Republican party, 45 by the Democrats, and two independents that align with the Democratic party.
Since 1967, every mayor elected in Washington has been a Democrat – a sign of the Democrats’ voter strength in the district.
Josh Holmes, former Chief of Staff to Senator Mitch McConnell, also criticized the bill that faces an uphill battle in Senate. “The ONLY reason to change it would be pure partisanship,” he tweeted, saying that Washington was never meant to be a state, as per the Constitution.
If federal representation of taxpayers is the issue then we should give back the residential areas of DC to MD and VA.— Josh Holmes (@HolmesJosh) June 26, 2020