House passes DC statehood bill, now it heads to Senate and faces uphill battle

House passes DC statehood bill, now it heads to Senate and faces uphill battle
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April 22nd, 2021 | ABC News Radio

(WASHINGTON) — A bill for D.C. statehood passed the House on a vote of 216-208 and heads to the Senate, where it has 45 co-sponsors but an uphill battle for passage.

This is the second time the bill has passed — the first time was in 2019. This time the measure has the public support of the White House, the Office of Management and Budget announced its support for statehood this week for the first time.

H.R. 51 would change the name of the city from the District of Columbia to “Washington, Douglass Commonwealth,” in honor of Fredrick Douglass, and allow a portion of the city — including the U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court, White House and Kennedy Center — to remain in a federal district called the “Capital.” That designated area would continue to be controlled by Congress, as mandated by the Constitution.

During the debate, Republicans accused Democrats of trying to make a power grab and Democrats claimed disenfranchisement.

“D.C. residents have been petitioning for voting representation in Congress and local autonomy for 220 years,” said Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a third-generation Washingtonian and the bill’s lead sponsor.

Norton, who was unable to vote due to D.C.’s non-state status, told her fellow lawmakers that “Congress has a choice. It can continue to exclude D.C. residents from the democratic process — forcing them to watch from the sidelines as Congress votes on federal and D.C. laws — and to treat them, in the words of Frederick Douglass, as aliens — not citizens, but subjects — or it can live up to our nation’s founding principles.”

Republican Rep. James Comer said that D.C. statehood, “is about Democrats adding two new progressive U.S. senators to push a radical agenda, championed by the Squad, to reshape America into the socialist utopia.”

The vote on D.C. statehood came over 100 days after the Jan. 6 deadly assault that left five people dead. Speaker Nancy Pelosi noted the Capitol “would have had protection much sooner,” if the city were a state. The D.C. National Guard, which assisted the city, had to wait more than three hours for approval to assist in protecting the Capitol.

Pelosi added, “the governor of any one of our states has the authority to call in the National Guard. That is not an authority that is afforded to the mayor of Washington, D.C.”

In the Senate, the bill has 45 co-sponsors, but every vote counts in the evenly divided body. The bill is sponsored there by Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware and he has lobbied fellow members to increase the number of co-sponsors from the original 38.

“Today is certainly a day for celebration, but tomorrow, the work continues to ensure we hold a hearing on S. 51 and continue to build the support in the Senate needed to make D.C. statehood a reality,” Carper said in a statement Thursday. “It’s past time we correct this historic injustice and give the residents of D.C. the full representation they deserve.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also asked “the 55 senators who have not yet signed on in support of D.C. statehood to fulfill their responsibility to build a more perfect union and seize this important opportunity to right a 220-year-old wrong.”

This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.

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