The White House officially endorsed the effort to make Washington, D.C. the 51st state on Tuesday, calling the region’s statehood “long overdue.” The endorsement comes ahead of a vote on Thursday when the House is expected to pass a bill making D.C. a state.
“The Administration strongly supports H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act,” reads the statement from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). “For far too long, the more than 700,000 people of Washington, D.C. have been deprived of full representation in the U.S. Congress.”
“This taxation without representation and denial of self-governance is an affront to the democratic values on which our Nation was founded,” the statement continues. “H.R. 51 rights this wrong by making Washington, D.C. a state and providing its residents with long overdue full representation in Congress, while maintaining a Federal District that will continue to serve as our Nation’s seat of government.”
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The Statement of Administration Policy is stronger and more formal than President Joe Biden’s support of D.C. statehood that White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed last month. Statements of Administration Policy are official actions taken by the OMB to register the viewpoints of the White House with Congress. Tuesday’s statement “calls for the Congress to provide for a swift and orderly transition to statehood for the people of Washington, D.C.”
The House will likely pass H.R. 51 this week, but it stands little chance of passing the filibuster threshold in the Senate. This will mark the second time the House has passed legislation to make D.C. a state.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, a non-voting House representative for the region, expressed gratitude for the OMB statement on Tuesday. Norton has been pushing Congress to make D.C. a state for 30 years.
“Thank you to the Biden administration for today’s statement supporting H.R. 51,” Norton said in a statement. “The residents of our nation’s capital deserve voting representation in Congress and full local self-government, and with Thursday’s House vote and expected passage, along with Democratic control of the Senate and White House, we have never been closer to statehood.”
Democrats have renewed the statehood push this year as they took control of Congress and the White House. The legislation has over 200 co-sponsors in the House and 44 co-sponsors in the Senate. Advocates argue that the statehood push is about representation for all of D.C., but especially the many disenfranchised Black residents who live there.
D.C. is 46 percent Black, though that percentage has shrunk over the years as the region has been gentrified. The history of the push to make D.C. a state has been fraught with racism as white legislators fought to keep the formerly majority-Black area disenfranchised.
“In the midst of our national reckoning on racism — and those who are quick to quote Dr. King and John Lewis, but obstruct things like DC statehood — uplifting Black political power must be a part of the conversation. We cannot allow electoral justice for the people of Washington DC to be denied any longer,” said Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts) during a hearing last month on H.R. 1. Pressley argued that statehood is an issue of racial justice.
Republicans remain staunchly opposed to D.C. statehood and have offered a plethora of absurd reasons for their opposition. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-South Carolina) claimed on Tuesday that D.C. wouldn’t qualify as a congressional district — but the area is home to more people than the entire state of Wyoming. Others have claimed that it shouldn’t be a state because it doesn’t have a car dealership or airport, ignoring the fact that it does have car dealerships and many of the other states incorporated in the 1700s didn’t have them back then, either.
At the end of the day, these absurd statements are cover for the fact that Republicans simply don’t want D.C. to become a state because it leans heavily Democratic, which means that Democrats would get more seats in Congress.
Advocates argue that, whatever the political leanings of the region, its residents deserve voting representation in Congress. “Washingtonians have waited over 200 years for the representation we deserve as American citizens,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in January. “To paraphrase Dr. King: when any American is denied democracy, our entire nation is denied those voices and votes.”