d.c. statehood?
May 1, 2021

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) on Friday said he opposes unilateral action by Congress to make Washington, D.C., a state. Instead, Congress "should propose a constitutional amendment and let the people of America vote," the centrist Democrat told West Virginia's MetroNews in a radio interview.

Stasha Rhodes, the campaign director for the pro-statehood group 51 for 51, pushed back against Manchin's comments, arguing that other states, including his own West Virginia, achieved their status through the legislative process. "No member of the Senate should deny voting rights to 700,000 mostly Black and brown Washingtonians based on a flimsy understanding of the Constitution and American history," Rhodes said.

But Manchin, citing legal scholars, said that D.C. differs from other situations because of the 23rd Amendment, which in 1961 gave the district Electoral College votes and U.S. citizens residing there the right to vote in presidential elections. Therefore, Manchin's opinion suggests that lawmakers at the time specifically opted not to make D.C. a state, complicating its path to that status.

Ultimately, Manchin's opposition probably doesn't change the trajectory of the movement to grant D.C. statehood in the near future, given that there is little, if any, chance enough Republican senators would back a bill passed by the House in April. But the announcement is still viewed as a momentum killer for advocates of the issue, Politico reports, because even if Democrats eventually got rid of the filibuster, they would not have the 50 votes (plus Vice President Kamala Harris' tiebreaker) required. A few other Democrats remain undecided on D.C. statehood, as well. Read more at Politico and NBC News. Tim O'Donnell

April 21, 2021

In a memo obtained by Forbes on Wednesday, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) laid out why he believes Washington. D.C., should not become a state.

One of the reasons he used to back his argument is the city's crime rate, including a rising number of annual murders and carjackings. The local government "has failed to provide for the safety and well-being of its citizens," Scalise wrote. "Why should the District of Columbia be granted statehood when it can't even perform basic government duties like protecting governments from criminals?"

Scalise's choice to focus on crime may not have registered quite how he hoped, instead prompting observers to point out that Louisiana, his home state, has long reported the nation's highest murder rate, while New Orleans, parts of which Scalise represents, has also seen an uptick in crime. Tim O'Donnell

March 20, 2021

The campaign for Washington, D.C., to become the 51st state has been gaining momentum in the Democratic Party, The Washington Post reports. Several Democratic lawmakers, like Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), said the urgency stems both from a "powerful democratic imperative for getting everybody equal political rights and representation" and also the sense that "the Senate has become the principal obstacle to social progress across a whole range of issues." In other words, two more senators from the heavily blue capital city would diminish the skew toward lower-population, Republican-leaning states in the chamber.

But as the idea becomes more and more of a priority for Democrats, it's also glaring brighter on the Republican Party's radar. "Our base is concerned," Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, told the Post. "This is the first step of their political power grab. And we're going to make sure that America knows what they're trying to do and why it wasn't created as a state to begin with."

In reaction to Comer's quote, CBS News' Wesley Lowery argued against the idea that the D.C. statehood movement is just a Democratic "power grab" in disguise, noting that he'd like to hear a counterargument about why the city's population should continue to be taxed without any votes in Congress. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

January 27, 2021

"We've never seen the groundswell of public support" for Washington, D.C., statehood "that we're seeing now," historian Chris Myers Asch, the co-author of Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation's Capital, told The Washington Post. That momentum is mainly a product of grassroots activists who are focused on getting the city's federal taxpaying residents representation in Congress, as detailed in a lengthy feature published by the Post on Wednesday. But the future of the movement rests in the Senate chamber, and Democratic lawmakers, often wary of addressing the issue in the past, seem to be warming to the idea for the sake of their party.

"Democrats are shifting toward uniform support for statehood because they realize it's one of the only ways they can gain power that's equivalent to their numbers in the greater population," historian George Derek Musgrove, Asch's co-author, told the Post. "I don't think there's any question that people within the Democratic leadership understand the stakes, and the benefits that statehood would bring to the party."

The last time the discussion about D.C. statehood was really amplified was in the early 1990s, and Democrats had held the Senate for more than 30 of the last 40 years, so they weren't too concerned about power dynamics. But while they have a slim majority in both Congressional chambers now, their grip is very loose, leaving them to face a new reality. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

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