D.C. statehood activists said they’re determined to see the District become the 51st state of the union with efforts that include securing a pro-statehood majority in both chambers during the next session of the U.S. Congress which begins in January 2023.
But the likelihood of achieving their desired goal in obtaining pro-statehood majorities in both the House and Senate during the next legislative session may depend on whose opinion one values the most.
For example, for most of the year, news stories featured on one website dedicated to electoral politics, The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, have reported that Republicans have a good chance of regaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives and to gain additional seats in the U.S. Senate.
However, in commentaries on the website, written by the Report’s founder, Charlie Cook and David Wasserman, including those published as recently as Aug. 25 (“The Coin is In the Air for the Senate”) and Aug. 30 (“House Overview: GOP Control is No Longer a Foregone Conclusion”), respectively, suggest that the chance of the Republicans taking control of both chambers remains less than certain than earlier this year.
In earlier efforts promoting D.C. statehood, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton authored two D.C. statehood bills, both of which passed the House in 2020 and 2021 under Democratic control. Also, for the first time since 2014, the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs committee held a hearing in 2021 on Sen. Tom Carper’s (D-Del.) D.C. statehood bill.
And President Biden has repeatedly indicated that if a D.C. statehood bill should reach his desk, he will sign it.
However, advocates for the statehood remain concerned that if the GOP wins one or both chambers of Congress in the midterm elections, their efforts for passing a D.C. statehood bill will be in danger.
D.C. Democratic State Committee Chairman Charles Wilson said his organization has ramped up efforts to help Democrats gain seats in Congress in several strategically-determined states.
“We are part of the eastern region of the Democratic National Committee,” Wilson said. “We are focusing on helping Democrats win in Pennsylvania and we will help by phone banking and text banking.”
Neighbors United for Statehood (NUS), a grassroots organization, sent out an email on Sept. 3, informing members of its participation in a program in which postcards are sent to residents in states that include Virginia, Georgia and California asking voters to support pro-statehood candidates for Congress. The NUS email also announced a Sept. 14 event sponsored by the D.C. Statehood PAC – designed to support pro-statehood candidates across the country – featuring Norton and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).
Despite the efforts of the D.C. Democratic Party and NUS, Wilson said outreach beyond the city and the immediate jurisdictions needs to improve.
“We do need to do more work on our end,” he said. “When it comes to statehood, we talk to ourselves a lot and we talk to people in D.C., Maryland and Virginia but we should go beyond that. We need to explain to people outside of the D.C. area that if they believe in criminal justice reform, a woman’s right over her body and gun control, it would be in their best interest to have D.C. as a state so there will be [additional] votes in Congress to support those things.”
Ty Hobson-Powell, who serves as the executive director of Concerned Citizens of DC and works with 51 for 51, an organization seeking to persuade the U.S. Senate to change its rules to allow a D.C. statehood bill to be considered on its floor with only 51 votes instead of the 60, agreed with Wilson on expanding the statehood conversation beyond the DMV.
“When you talk about statehood beyond the Beltway, people see that as a D.C. local issue,” Hobson-Powell said. “People who live in Las Vegas, Utah or Montana aren’t thinking of D.C. statehood. They don’t think it affects them. But when we tell them that we are taxed without any federal voting representation and how that is a denial of democracy, then they become concerned.”
Hobson-Powell said he will work with groups that support pro-statehood candidates. Both he and Wilson believe adjunct organizations such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee should do more to promote D.C. statehood given the city’s strong support of the party.
“We give the Democratic nominee for president most of the time 90% of the vote in D.C.,” Hobson-Powell said. “There should be more movement on statehood from the Democrats. I guarantee you, if D.C. was a 90% Republican city, we would see a lot harder effort from them.”
Bo Shuff, executive director of DC Vote, an organization charged with securing congressional representation for the District, said his organization’s 501C3 status prevents them from becoming directly involved in political campaigns.
However, he added, “during the election season, we will continue to educate voters on statehood in and out of D.C.”