After decades of promoting the idea of granting statehood to Washington, D.C., Democratic lawmakers recently introduced a measure that would turn much of the district into the nation’s 51st state.
Although the party maintains a razor-thin majority on Capitol Hill, the plan appears to have hit an early roadblock with opposition from U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).
“Let the people of America vote”
He recently confirmed that he does not support the measure, which would face an uphill battle in the Senate in any case given united GOP opposition and a filibuster rule requiring 60 votes to advance the proposed legislation.
Even if Democrats were somehow able to abolish the filibuster, which Manchin also opposes, the moderate Democrat’s vote would still be vital in a chamber evenly divided between the two parties.
According to Politico, Manchin revealed his position to the House-approved bill during a recent radio interview in his home state.
“If Congress wants to make D.C. a state, it should propose a constitutional amendment … and let the people of America vote,” he asserted.
Manchin went on to note that he and his aide had performed a “deep dive” into the issue and reviewed findings from prior administrations, concluding that a constitutional amendment either repealing or adding to the 23rd Amendment — which granted D.C. residents the right to cast presidential ballots and three electoral college votes — would be necessary for statehood to be legally granted.
“Why not do it the right way”
“Every legal scholar has told us that, so why not do it the right way and let the people vote to see if they want to change?” he asked.
Democratic proponents of D.C. statehood typically argue that they are seeking appropriate representation for those living in the district, but Republicans accuse them of staging a legislative power grab.
The overwhelmingly Democratic district would all but guarantee two new senators for the party, tilting the balance of power on Capitol Hill to the left.
Of course, there are compromises that might satisfy both parties, as explained in a 2019 RealClearPolitics op-ed.
One such alternative, known as retrocession, would cede much of the land in D.C. to Maryland, thus providing residents with full representation without adding new senators. If representation is truly what is motivating Democrats, it seems they would be willing to consider such an option.