House approves DC statehood: how many states are there now?
The House of Representatives has voted to make Washington DC a state, but Republicans in the Senate will argue that the Democrats' move is self-interested.
On Thursday the House of Representatives voted in favour of a bill that would finally grant statehood to Washington, DC. The District of Columbia is not currently considered a state and so has no representation in Congress.
The bill was passed on a party line vote of 216-208, the second time the House approved the legislation after it was first introduced last year. Washington, DC would become the 51st state if the bill is signed into law but it first needs to be approved by the Senate.
Democrats argue that statehood would provide representation for residents
The issue of statehood for Washington, DC has been around for decades with Democrats eager to make the most of their unified control in the Capitol to finally secure change. In the 2020 presidential election Joe Biden received a 92% share of the vote, signalling that the Democrats would likely scoop up two new seats in the Senate if the new bill goes through.
Democratic Representative Jan Schakowsky argued that statehood would address a centuries-old oversight that is “the definition of taxation without representation."
She pointed out that, as it stands, "more than 700,000 Americans citizens who pay federal taxes, who fight and die in wars, who serve on our juries and yet have no vote in the Senate or the House of Representatives.”
It would be the first time since 1959 that a new state has entered the union, when Alaska and Hawaii were admitted. Reuters report that the new state would be called "Washington, Douglass Commonwealth"; a combination of the United States’ first president, George Washington, and Frederick Douglass, a former enslaved person and famous abolitionist.
GOP accuse Democrats of cynical intentions
While the Democrats have argued that statehood would ensure greater representation in Congress, a number of Republican lawmakers have accused them of acting only in self-interest. Rep. James Comer of Kentucky said that the legislation is a calculated ploy to gain an advantage is a 50-50 split Senate.
"Let's be very clear what HR 51 is all about: It's all about creating two new Democrat US Senate seats," he said.
"This bill is part of the progressive pathway that President Biden, Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi have to reshape America into that socialist utopia that the Squad talk about.”
The bill progressed to the House floor for a vote after a lengthy hearing on the issue last month, in which Democratic DC Mayor Muriel Bowser called for Congress to better represent the city’s residents.
However the Republicans argued that this attempt to create a new state through legislation, rather than with a constitutional amendment, was unlawful and could not be allowed to continue. When the matter is raised in the Senate the Democrats will need a 60-vote supermajority to get the proposal passed, meaning that at least ten Republican senators would have to cross the aisle.