Government

A 51st State?

READING TIME ~ 4 MINUTES

Key Items to Consider:

  1. Growth of the Campaign
  2. Current Position of the Movement

Growth of the Campaign

The movement to create Washington D.C. as the 51st state of the USA began many years ago, for the principal reason of representation. Washington D.C. was created through a compromise made on July 16, 1790. “Alexander Hamilton and northern states wanted the new federal government to assume Revolutionary War debts, and Thomas Jefferson and southern states who wanted the capital placed in a location friendly to slave-holding agricultural interests.” This movement had a large victory on March 29, 1961, when the 23rd Amendment was ratified. This gave the U.S. capital “representation” in election voting, where American citizens residing in the capital have a vote within the government. Yet, to this day, they pay federal taxes without representation in Congress. The debate continued to build up with arguments over local authority, with tension towards the fact that the district’s local laws are subject to the decision of Congress – an issue unobservable within states. Even more prominent in the past few months, the mayor of Washington D.C., Muriel Bowser lacked jurisdiction to call the National Guard to aid during the January 6th capitol riots. In brief, this extensive movement is persevering, and many are in hope that this campaign will pass in both houses of Congress.

A Washington, D.C. license plate from 2000, showing the new motto "Taxation Without Representation"
A D.C. license plate from 2000-2001, showing the changed motto; boundarystones.weta.org; Wikimedia Commons

Current Position of the Movement

The non-voting delegate of Washington D.C., Eleanor Holmes Norton, has been fighting for statehood for the district. She attempted to pass the bill in 1993, where it was defeated 277-153. Over these three decades, Norton is assured that this bill will pass with the current Congress. In June 2020, there was an attempt to pass the bill, which was successful in the House of Representatives but failed in the Senate. On March 22nd, 2021, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform will conduct a hearing on the H.R. 51 bill. Passing this bill would concede the state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth (named that to preserve the name Washington D.C.) into the Union and would, in turn, decrease the size of the capital/district. The House of Representatives is dedicated to passing this bill, currently with 212 cosponsors (3 of the cosponsors have resigned from Congress) out of the 219 Democrats in the House. Without changing the legislative filibuster, the leader of this movement in the Senate, Senator Tom Carper from Delaware, would need the approval of at least 10 Republican Senators to authorize this legislation.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., speaks at a news conference on District of Columbia statehood. Behind her is a logo.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington’s delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, speaks at a news conference on District of Columbia statehood, June 16, 2020; voanews.com

TL ; DR

  • Representation – this was the key reason why the movement for creating a 51st state from the nation’s capital, Washington D.C.
  • This movement primarily intended to receive larger delegation with this U.S. government, finally reaching a stage to request statehood
  • This movement had victories in the past, including the ratification of the 23rd Amendment, allowing citizens in the capital to have representation within government
  • Today, citizens have to pay federal taxes while the state lacks authority other states receive
  • Currently, the H.R. 51 bill is in stage to be heard and voted upon, and if passed will create the state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, while reducing the size of the capital.

Sources

https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/interpretation/amendment-xxiii/interps/155#:~:text=Congress%20passed%20the%20Twenty%2DThird,as%20part%20of%20the%20Constitution.&text=The%20Amendment%20allows%20American%20citizens,for%20President%20and%20Vice%20President.

https://washington.org/DC-information/washington-dc-history

https://statehood.dc.gov/page/why-statehood-dc

https://www.voanews.com/usa/51st-us-state-advocates-see-possibility-dc

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/democrats-renew-dc-statehood-push-that-would-remake-national-politics

https://oversight.house.gov/legislation/hearings/hr-51-making-dc-the-51st-state-0

https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/51/cosponsors?q={%22search%22:[%22h.r.+51%22]}&s=1&r=1&overview=closed&searchResultViewType=expanded

https://pressgallery.house.gov/member-data/party-breakdown

https://boundarystones.weta.org/2020/02/12/washington-taxation-without-representation-history

https://statehood.dc.gov/page/contact-congress#/3/

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