Flag of the District of Columbia
Flag of the District of Columbia (Courtesy of dpw.dc.gov)

The House of Representatives, in a landmark vote, passed a bill Friday granting statehood to the District of Columbia, becoming the first chamber of Congress to ever pass legislation that would give the District voting representation on Capitol Hill.

The bill, which passed on a 232-180 vote, is largely symbolic since it is unlikely to advance in the GOP-controlled Senate, but is historic nonetheless.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who authored the bill, expressed elation at its passing.

“The U.S. is the only Democratic country that denies both voting rights in the national legislature and local autonomy to the residents of the nation’s capital,” Norton said in a statement. “As we approach July 4th, it is long past time to apply the nation’s oldest slogan ‘no taxation without representation’ and the principle of consent of the governed to District of Columbia residents.”

The legislation would admit the non-federal enclaves of the District as the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, named after famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, a District resident. The bill would provide a voting member of the House based on population and two U.S. senators as well as the rights and privileges the residents of all other states have.

H.R. 51, or The Washington D.C. Admissions Act — was the first statehood bill to reach the House floor since 1993, when Norton proposed similar legislation.

Mayor Muriel Bowser — who would be Governor Bowser under the bill — said the time for D.C. statehood has come.

“Today, with this historic vote, D.C. is closer than we have ever been to becoming the 51st state,” Bowser said. “On behalf of all Washingtonians, I congratulate Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. On both a personal and professional level, this is an extraordinary accomplishment for the congresswoman and we are all grateful not only for her tireless work on statehood, but her commitment to uplifting residents and putting D.C. in the best possible position to become the 51st state.

“I was born without representation but I swear I will not die without representation,” the mayor said. “Together, we will achieve D.C. statehood, and when we do, we will look back on this day and remember all who stood with us on the right side of history.”

During the debate on the House floor, Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) mentioned a little-known fact about his relationship with the District.

“I was born in Washington, D.C., and spent most of my formative years here,” Johnson said. “I grew up knowing that when my parents voted in elections, their voices wouldn’t be heard. It is not a coincidence that a largely Black city had their voices erased from the halls of the federal government. We obeyed the same laws and paid the same taxes as our fellow Americans, but we had no in taking part in the governing of America.”

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who currently serves as the majority leader, voted against the 1993 bill but fully embraced the present bill. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota was the only Democrat to vote against the bill and no Republicans supported it. Peterson voted against the 1993 statehood, also.

The bill’s political fate is likely already sealed, however. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has pledged not to bring a D.C. statehood bill to his chamber’s floor. And last month, President Trump emphatically rejected the notion of the District gaining statehood, insisting it would be too politically beneficial to Democrats.

James Wright photo

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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