Democrats’ quest to make Washington, D.C., the 51st state hit a big roadblock this week in the form of a fellow Democrat.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he opposed Congress alone creating the new state and he believes, like Republicans have argued, that statehood for the nation’s capital needs to be done through a constitutional amendment.
“If Congress wants to make D.C. a state, it should propose a constitutional amendment,” Manchin said in an interview with the West Virginia MetroNews radio network, according to The Associated Press. “It should propose a constitutional amendment and let the people of America vote.”
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In a 50-50 split Senate, D.C. statehood already had a tough shot of becoming a reality because as long as the legislative filibuster is in place the proposal would require 60 votes to advance. Republicans have been squarely opposed to elevating the federal district to statehood status arguing it’s an unconstitutional powerplay by Democrats to add two more liberal senators to the upper chamber.
Manchin, a moderate member from a red state, has been outspoken in his opposition to eliminating the legislative filibuster too. His siding with Republicans on various issues has frustrated liberals who want to use the slim Democratic majority in the House and Senate to pass major priorities like federal voting rights legislation, police reform, D.C. statehood and raising the minimum wage to $15.
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The House earlier this month passed legislation to make Washington, D.C., the 51st state and to grant its roughly 700,000 residents full representation in Congress. The strictly party-line vote in the House was 216 to 208, with all Republicans rejecting the statehood bill, dubbed H.R. 51. The legislation has support from President Biden.
D.C.’s lone non-voting delegate in Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, has argued that the district should be no different than the 37 others states that Congress admitted to the union without a constitutional amendment. She put out a new statement on Friday, not mentioning Manchin by name, saying the 23rd Amendment does not need to be repealed before Congress grants statehood.
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“Those who make such an assertion are conflating a policy choice and a constitutional requirement,” Norton said.