The House will vote on a bill to admit Washington, D.C. as the 51st state later this month, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a letter to colleagues on Tuesday. Although the measure is expected to pass in the House, it will likely stall in the Senate, as most Republicans have expressed opposition to admitting the nation’s capital as a state.
The House approved a D.C. statehood measure by a vote of 232 to 180 last year, but it did not come to the floor of the Senate, which was then controlled by Republicans. Although Democrats now hold a 50-seat majority in the Senate, most legislation requires 60 votes to advance, and this bill is unlikely to garner support from ten Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has committed to bringing the measure to the floor for a vote, but a motion to end debate on the legislation would almost certainly fail.
The legislation, titled H.R. 51, would create the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, named after Frederick Douglass. It would give D.C. two U.S. senators and a voting representative in the House, like every other state. The bill would also cordon off the White House, Capitol and National Mall to remain under federal control as the seat of the U.S. government.
The district has a population of nearly 700,000 people, larger than the populations of Wyoming and Vermont. District residents have no voting representation in Congress, but Eleanor Holmes Norton represents D.C. in Congress as a non-voting delegate.
Senate Democrats introduced a companion bill to the House measure in January. The bill has 38 cosponsors in the Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. President Biden said he would support D.C. statehood during the presidential campaign.
The idea of D.C. statehood is growing in popularity nationwide. A March poll conducted by Data for Progress and the progressive advocacy coalition Democracy for All 2021 Action and shared first with CBS News found that 54% of likely voters think D.C. should be a state.
The poll found that clear majorities among likely voters in urban (57%) and suburban (56%) areas, as well as in swing states (57%), support D.C. statehood to allow for voting representation in Congress. About half of voters in rural areas of the country agree.
But most Republicans in Congress oppose admitting the district as a state. The district is heavily Democratic, with a diverse population that is 46% Black. If admitted, D.C. would be the only state with a plurality-Black population. Republicans believe that admitting Washington would automatically give Democrats two new senators, and further tilt the balance of the Senate toward the Democrats.
Some activists advocating for D.C. statehood have called on the Senate to eliminate the filibuster, which would allow the legislation to pass with a simple majority. But at least two Democrats have said they are against ending the Senate tradition.