National Consumers League

Washington, DC gets ‘yes’ on statehood

In a 232-180 vote, the House of Representatives moved to grant the District of Columbia full statehood with only one Democrat voting against it and all House Republicans opposing the measure.

What does statehood for DC mean? If the House bill becomes law, DC will gain two senators and one member of Congress with voting power. The last vote on this measure was 27 years ago and failed by a two-to-one vote, with 40 percent of Democrats opposing. My, how things have changed!

For the record, DC has 705,000 residents, so it’s more populous than two states, Wyoming and Vermont, both of which have two senators and one representative in Congress. It’s no secret that DC is viewed with derision—at best—by many in Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has vowed not to bring the bill to a vote, and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) dismissed the idea that DC and Wyoming are on equal footing, saying “Yes, Wyoming is smaller than Washington by population, but it has three times as many workers in mining, logging and construction, and 10 times as many workers in manufacturing. In other words, Wyoming is a well-rounded, working-class state.”

The overseer mentality of Congress toward DC was evident again this summer when President Donald Trump called 5,000 National Guard troops into DC to quell the protest that erupted after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, despite DC Mayor Muriel Bowser disagreeing. In response, Mayor Bowser had the street leading up to the White House painted with the words “Black Lives Matter” and renamed the street “Black Lives Matter Plaza.”

But here we are with a historic decision by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), making good on a promise she made the DC Delegate and non-voting member of the House Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) to bring this matter to a vote. And the results speak for themselves.

I have friends who say the vote is meaningless because it won’t become law. To become law, the bill needs 60 votes in the Senate and the President’s sign-off. But in my opinion, no vote along the path to civil rights is ever meaningless—every step is a milestone.

Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty said it well:

“The question of statehood for the nation’s capital is part of the unfinished business of the civil rights movement. It has been 230 years since the District of Columbia was established as the capital of a young democratic republic. The country is long overdue in granting full rights of citizenship to those who live there.”