House Approves D.C. Statehood Bill Along Party Lines

The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., July 26, 2019 (Erin Scott/Reuters)

The House voted to approve statehood for Washington, D.C., on Thursday in a bill expected to be dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The 232-180 vote fell along party lines, with Representative Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) the only Democrat to oppose the measure.

“This bill allows our country to live up to its claim to be a democracy,” said Washington, D.C., delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a representative of the U.S. capital who is a non-voting member of the House. “We stand out as the only democracy, which denies democracy to the residents of its own capital city.”

If passed, the bill would almost certainly grant two Senate seats to the solidly-Democratic city, leading Republicans to denounce the initiative as a power-grab.

“The Democrats want to make Washington a state because they want two new Democratic senators in perpetuity,” Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) said on the Senate floor on Thursday. “The Founders created Washington as a ‘Federal City’ so that the operations of government would be safe and free from domination by the states around it.”

Cotton further warned, “Washington’s roughly 200 foreign embassies would no longer be in the federal district but in the Democrats’ new state, giving it unusual prominence in foreign affairs—precisely the kind of special treatment the Founders hoped to avoid by creating a federal city.”

Democrats’ measure would declare Washington, D.C., would rename the city the “Douglass Commonwealth” after the abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

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