The House will vote next week on legislation to grant statehood to Washington, Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer announced Tuesday.
If the House passes the bill on June 26, it would be the first time a statehood bill has passed either chamber of Congress. It is not expected to advance in the Republican-led Senate, but advocates are still looking to a likely historic step forward in the long-running campaign to make the District of Columbia the 51st state.
“For the first time, statehood will put an end to our oldest slogan, ‘Taxation without representation,’” D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said at a news conference Tuesday.
The vote will also mark a change in attitude toward the idea of D.C. statehood, which in 1993 was voted down in the House, 153-277. Forty percent of the ‘no’ votes were from Democrats, The Washington Post reported at the time.
“It took me some time to conclude that the only way we were going to give the citizens of the District of Columbia their right as American citizens was to support statehood,” said Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat.
Hoyer and Norton were joined at Tuesday’s news conference by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.
The bill up for a vote is similar to another one introduced by Norton, HR 51, which is co-sponsored by 223 Democrats and one independent but has no Republican backers. The newer bill was approved on Feb. 11 by the House Oversight and Reform Committee on a 21-16 vote.
Norton’s measure would give the District two senators and one member of the House. Republicans are opposed to giving the majority Democratic city statehood, which would likely provide the party a boost in both chambers.
“We will continue our work to protect every American’s right to be heard at the ballot box and on the floor of the House, and of the Senate,” said Pelosi, who called the upcoming vote “historic.”
The relationship between President Donald Trump and District leaders grew icy in recent weeks, as the president fought with Bowser over the response to protests against racism and the police killings of George Floyd and others.
“This was an appropriate time to bring a bill forward to show respect for the citizens of the District of Columbia of whatever color, but also to show respect to a city, [which] has a very large African American population,” Hoyer said.
At a news conference earlier this month, Trump declared himself the “law and order” president while military forces used flash-bang grenades and pepper-spray projectiles to clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square in front of the White House.
He then walked to St. John’s Episcopal Church where he posed for photographs holding a Bible. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, later apologized for his involvement in the incident.
Washington also received much less funding than its state counterparts in the roughly $2 trillion coronavirus aid package that Congress passed in March, Hoyer said, because it was treated like a territory.
“If D.C. were a state, it could not be shortchanged as it was under the CARES Act and its residents would be protected from the kind of civil rights violations we saw in Lafayette Square,” the majority leader said.