WASHINGTON (AP) – A long-running bid to pass legislation that will make the District of Columbia the 51st state in the country became slightly longer on Friday.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has said he opposes congressional unilateral action to turn the nation’s capital into a state and believes he should do so through constitutional amendment. He said previous republican and democratic administrations thought the same.
“Everyone came to the same conclusion. If Congress wants to turn DC into a state, it must propose a constitutional amendment, “Manchin said in an interview with West Virginia radio network MetroNews. “He must propose a constitutional amendment and let the people of America vote.”
Earlier this month, the chamber approved a bill strictly along the lines of the party to make the District of Columbia a state with one representative and two senators, while a tiny piece of land, including the White House, the US Capitol and the National Mall, will remain a federal district.
An identical state bill passed the House in 2020, but it died in the then-Republican-controlled Senate. Now that the 2020 election has given Democrats control in both houses of Congress and the White House, some have pushed for the removal of the filibuster so that only a simple Senate majority is needed to pass legislation. Applying for DC statehood will be one of the initiatives that could pass in such a scenario.
However, such tactics will require full democratic unity, and a radio interview with Manchin on Friday demonstrated once again that they do not have it.
Manchin also stated unequivocally that he would not vote to remove or weaken the filibuster. He is among a handful of Democratic senators who have not openly supported the DC statehood initiative.
During the vote in the House of Republicans, it was argued that the measure would not withstand judicial review. Manchin said he would “tell his friends” that if they prosecute the state through legislation, “you know he will go to the Supreme Court.”
“Every legal scholar has told us this, so why not do it the right way and let people vote and see if they want change,” Manchin said.
Such an amendment will not be proposed for elections. Rather, the proposed amendment to the constitution will have to be approved by a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress, and then legislatures in 38 states must ratify the language adopted by Congress for the amendment to take effect.
DC has long disputed its relationship with Congress, which has the power to essentially veto or change all local laws. Its population is larger than that of Wyoming or Vermont and about 690,000 inhabitants pay federal taxes, vote for president, and serve in the military, but they have no representation to vote in Congress.
Delean Eleanor Holmes Norton, a non-voting member of the District of Columbia Congress, did not mention Manchin by name in a statement issued by her office on Friday. But this was apparently intended to refute his comments.
“First, no new state was admitted with constitutional changes,” Norton said. “All 37 new states have been accepted by Congress and there has never been a successful constitutional challenge to state acceptance. The constitution binds adoption decisions only to Congress. “
Campbell Wallace, a spokesman for Sen. Tom Carper, Del., And a sponsor of the Senate Statehood Bill, said the constitution does not prohibit granting statehood to Washington, D.C. however, “DC is now taking the same steps that 37 other countries have taken since 1791.”