WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — District officials believe they are closer to winning statehood – even with decades of odds and votes against that reality.
The strategy: Convincing reticent Senate Democrats who hold a super-slim majority to make DC the 51st state in exchange for having two more senators and others representatives in the House to push through President Joe Biden’s agenda.
Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration sees a silver lining after the midterm elections and during the lame duck session of Congress by tying the District’s fate to hot-button issues such as abortion and voting rights.
Beverly Perry, the mayor’s senior advisor and lobbyist on the issue, said this is the District’s best chance with the White House and Congress under Democratic control to try and keep it with the midterms looming.
“It’s been discussed for over 220 years. Yes, that’s a very long time,” Perry said. “But why now? This is the closest we’ve ever been. We have had a hearing in the House, passed the House, first time it’s ever passed. And now we’re in the Senate. We’ve had a hearing in the Senate. We are that close.”
Perry said she estimates that they need two to four senate Democrats to “amend the filibuster for voting rights which includes statehood and we’re there.”
“America needs us to be there,” she said. “And why now? Because democracy is on the ballot. Democracy for women’s rights, democracy for voting rights, democracy for safety, to get rid of racial hate. Democracy for statehood.”
But the District statehood movement has been ongoing for decades without
much movement, even though DC acknowledges the lack of voter representation –
“Taxation Without Representation – in Congress on its license plates.
DC is under federal purview of the Congress and there have been debates about whether making the District a state would require a constitutional amendment.
Republicans have opposed the idea as well. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott reportedly wrote in a fundraising letter that if the GOP doesn’t “take back the Senate, Dems will pack the courts, give DC statehood, grant abortions up to 52 weeks and Republicans will never win again.”
Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress and the sponsor of the House’s statehood bill, said she’s feeling more optimistic how than ever.
“We are very close to making DC statehood a reality,” she said. “We’re closer than every to making the District the 51st state.”
Norton said she believes “that we’re going to get virtually all” the Democrats in the Senate but acknowledged the West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin would be the most difficult. He has been on record that he thinks DC statehood should come in the form of a constitutional amendment.
Perry said she’s still believing this could could done.
“It’s the best chance that I have,” she said. “It’s the best chance that this city has right now.”