House passage of D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s bill — The Washington, D.C. Admissions Act of 2021 — shifts the fight for District statehood to the U.S. Senate and city residents want Senate support, too.
“Now with the historic support [of the House] and the strong backing of the White House, D.C. statehood moves to the U.S. Senate,” said D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. “Forty-five senators have already acknowledged that our nation will be stronger when we end the disenfranchisement of more than 700,000 Americans living in Washington, D.C. Frederick Douglass once said, ‘I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.’ We call on 55 senators who have not yet signed on in support of D.C. statehood to fulfill their responsibility to build a more perfect union and seize this important opportunity.”
A D.C. statehood bill has never been considered on the Senate floor or been voted on in committee. Moreover, Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.) has introduced a D.C. statehood bill for years with no action occurring.
However, this year Carper serves as the second-ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee which will consider his bill. The committee’s chair, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), serves as a co-sponsor of Carper’s legislation.
The Senate has 50 Democrats, 50 Republicans with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote on legislation but the bill needs 60 votes to avoid a legislative filibuster that would effectively nix the legislation.
D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine echoed Bowser’s call to senators.
“As the legislation now moves to the Senate, I encourage senators to be courageous and take partisanship out of this debate,” he said. “Statehood for the District isn’t about scoring political wins by villainizing the District or reducing our quest for representation to merely another partisan game. We’re talking more than 700,000 real lives. Giving us an equal voice strengthens our democracy.”
David J. Johns, executive director of the District-based National Black Justice Coalition, an organization that advocates for the rights of African American LGBTQ individuals, urged the Senate to consider Carper’s bill.
“Ensuring representation for Washington, D.C. is a critical civil rights issue as D.C. boasts one of the largest Black and LGBTQ communities in the country,” Johns said. “We urge the Senate to swiftly take up legislation to grant statehood to D.C. and swift passage of the bill into law.”
Will Roberts, acting vice president for democracy and government reform at the Center for American Progress, also encouraged the Senate to act.
“The [House] vote recognizes that it’s time to end the historic disenfranchisement of the people of Washington, D.C.,” Roberts said. “The measure would finally grant the roughly 700,000 residents of the nation’s capital the same voting rights and representation in Congress as every other American. And it would give the District’s government the same power as every other state—to govern its people when it comes to local decisions without interference from Congress or the president.
“The U.S. Senate must now pass this measure and admit Washington, Douglass Commonwealth as the 51st state so that Washington residents can gain full voting rights guaranteed to every American by the U.S. Constitution.”