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This week: Democrats move on DC statehood

This week: Democrats move on DC statehood

by JORDAIN CARNEY | The Hill  |  Published on April 19, 2021

Democrats are poised to move one of their biggest priorities this week: D.C. statehood.

The House, which is set to leave town at the end of the week until early May, will vote on legislation this week to make Washington, D.C., the country’s 51st state, after pledging to prioritize it during President Biden’s first 100 days.

“I expect to bring #HR51 to the House Floor for a vote on Thursday, April 22 to grant #DCStatehood to the more than 700,000 residents of the District of Columbia. The voice of every American citizen deserves to be heard – it’s past time that we make statehood a reality for DC,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) tweeted late last week.

The House previously passed the bill last year, but it went nowhere in the GOP-controlled Senate. Even with Democrats now in control of both chambers, D.C. statehood faces an uphill, unlikely, climb to actually passing Congress.

Democrats would need the support of at least 10 GOP senators in order to advance a D.C. statehood bill without getting rid of the 60-vote filibuster. Even if Democrats changed the rules — something they don’t currently have the support to do — D.C. statehood doesn’t currently have the 50 votes needed to pass.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) announced last week that his bill now had the support of 44 Democratic senators, in addition to himself, after Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) and John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) signed on as cosponsors.

“D.C. statehood is a matter of basic fairness, not politics. With our record 44th cosponsor, momentum is firmly on the side of the movement to grant equal representation to Washington, D.C.’s more than 700,000 residents,” Carper said in a statement.

“These are Americans who, just like in any other state, pay federal taxes and proudly service in our nation’s Armed Forces and yet do not have a voice or vote in Congress,” he added.

But that still leaves the bill five votes short of the number needed, if Democrats got rid of the filibuster, to let Vice President Harris break a tie.

The Senate will get briefed this week on Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 — the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Biden’s decision, announced last week, marks a historic step after the two previous administrations pledged, but failed, to end the country’s longest war.

It also sparked bipartisan criticism from lawmakers worried that pulling U.S. troops too soon could spark a backslide in Afghanistan and bipartisan praise from lawmakers who have been publicly pushing Biden to formally end the war.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to get a closed-door briefing on Monday evening “on the negotiation process and understanding the security situation” in Afghanistan.

Under the deal with the Taliban signed by the Trump administration last year, the U.S. withdrawal is supposed to be contingent on insurgents meeting certain commitments, including breaking from al Qaeda and reducing violence in the country. But U.S. military officials have repeatedly said the Taliban has yet to uphold those commitments.

The full Senate will then get an in-person briefing on Tuesday.

Hate crimes bill

The Senate is still trying to work out a deal on amendments to an anti-Asian hate crimes bill sponsored by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).

The bill would require the Justice Department to appoint an official to oversee the expedited review of coronavirus-related hate crimes, bolster state and local resources and have the administration issue guidance on “best practices to mitigate racially discriminatory language” describing the coronavirus pandemic.

Hirono said she is working to incorporate changes from GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and Susan Collins (Maine).

Leadership has also been negotiating a deal on amendment votes, after Republicans filed dozens of amendments some of them related to neither the coronavirus or hate crimes.

“I expect the Republican Leader and I, in consultation with the relevant committees, will be able to figure out an appropriate number of reasonable, germane, non-gotcha amendments for the Senate to consider,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Leader (D-N.Y.) said last week.

The Senate will start the week tackling more of Biden’s nominees.

The Senate will hold an initial vote on Lisa Monaco’s nomination to be deputy attorney general on Monday evening.

After it finishes up Monaco’s nomination, they’ll vote on the re-appointment of Gary Gensler to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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