The House just approved legislation intended to provide Washington D.C. statehood, potentially making it the 51st state in the nation.
The legislation, appropriately titled H.R. 51, was approved mainly across political lines with a 216-208 vote, The Hill reports. The bill will now go to the Senate for another round of votes but may require the abolishment of the filibuster.
Under the bill, the current District would be minimized to just include the National Mall, monuments, White House and other federal buildings. The remaining land would become a new state. Residents who reside within the new District would be allowed to vote in the state where they previously lived.
The bill would establish the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The state would receive two U.S. senators and voting rights in the House, CBS News reports.
The legislation which has been introduced for the second time in two years has been a continuous goal for Democrats. Historically, the district has been predominately populated by Black Americans but has just recently fallen under 50%. Despite this, Washington D.C. remains a blue-leaning district that granted President Joe Biden three electoral votes in the general election.
If granted statehood, D.C. would become the first state with a plurality Black population.
The White House announced its support of the legislation on Tuesday saying it was “long overdue” and would provide residents “full representation in Congress.”
“For far too long, the more than 700,000 people of Washington, D.C., have been deprived of full representation in the U.S. Congress. This taxation without representation and denial of self governance is an affront to the democratic values on which our Nation was founded,” the White House stated in its official endorsement of the cause. “Establishing the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth as the 51st state will make our Union stronger and more just.”
Fifty-four percent of Americans also approve of making Washington D.C. a state.
Republicans, under the assumption that granting statehood will give Democrats more of an edge in elections, have opposed the legislation.
According to The Hill, Republicans also argue that statehood was against the nation’s founders’ intent.
Democrats countered their colleagues’ argument against the legislation, saying that the political leaning of the District is irrelevant when ensuring all Americans are fairly represented.
Washington D.C. House delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who is a non-voting delegate, said that the District pays more federal taxes per capita than any other state and its population of 700,000 equates to more than that of Vermont and Wyoming.
If the filibuster is abolished, Democrats will still need Sens. Joe Manchin and other moderate lawmakers to get the 50 votes needed for approval pending Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.