A Democratic proposal that, by reshaping a large portion of the District of Columbia into a 51st state, would give almost all the District 700,000 residents representation in Congress, including two senators, is scheduled for a vote in the House of Representatives on Friday, June 26. The bill is expected to pass.
The vote is being pushed enthusiastically by party leaders Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) as the District’s federal properties, statues, memorials and parks have become the scene of clashes between Black Lives Matter protesters and federal police forces and the National Guard, activated by President Trump.
“No state would tolerate such a militant federal response to peaceful protests — and Washington shouldn’t have to either,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Tuesday, June 23, after protests in Lafayette Park in front of the White House, facing the two blocks of 16th Street NW she renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza on June 5.
On Monday, protesters tried to take over the plaza as an “autonomous zone,” as in Seattle, and roped the statue of populist President Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Square, trying to pull it down. “There shouldn’t be troops from other states in Washington, D.C. There shouldn’t be federal forces advancing against Americans. And there very definitely shouldn’t be soldiers stationed around our city waiting for the ‘go’ to attack Americans in a local policing matter,” Bowser said.
The push for statehood long preceded the Black Lives Matter movement. It has been argued for decades that statehood is needed to give District residents representation in the House and the Senate.
Proposed by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the bill, H.R.51, to be discussed and voted on on Friday would declare the city a new state, named “Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.” Further, it would set up procedures for transferring much of the city’s nonresidential land — mainly the National Mall and the Ellipse — to the federal government to form the constitutionally mandated District.
However, the House bill has little to no chance of being considered in the Republican-controlled Senate. And President Trump announced that he would veto any bill making the District a 51st state should it come to his desk. At least this year, statehood will remain blocked.
Republicans have steadfastly objected to statehood, presumably because it would make D.C., a region dominated by Democrats, a tipping point for the Senate. A Republican proposal to give D.C. representation as part of Maryland has been firmly rejected by the District’s Democratic leaders.