A 51st star could be coming soon to an American flag near you if Congressional Democrats get their way.
Democrats in the House of Representatives are planning a June 26 vote on admitting Washington D.C. as the nation’s 51st state, a push that has rapidly gained momentum amid the racial justice protests sweeping the nation.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the fact that D.C. is not a state: “unjust, unequal, undemocratic and unacceptable.”
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser says statehood for the district is a civil rights issue for black Americans, who make up a plurality of the roughly 700,000 people who live there.
The bill faces certain death for now in the Republican-controlled Senate and President Trump has vowed to veto it.
But a powerful mandate in the House could set the stage for a victory if Democrats win control of the Senate and the White House in November.
The move would mean Democratic-dominated D.C., which is more populous than the existing states of Wyoming and Vermont, would get one representative and two senators. The senators could tip the balance towards Democrats’ favor in the crucial chamber, which now favors Republicans from small states in the Great Plains and mountain west regions.
The district would also have a governor, who would have significantly more power over the district than the mayor does now.
Statehood for D.C. has somewhat surprisingly never won significant traction among Democrats. The last time the issue came for a vote was in 1993 and it failed by a 2-1 margin.
But the protests over the police killing of George Floyd have significantly shifted the political ground.
President Trump, who is wildly unpopular in the district, earned the ire of Bowser and others by using National Guard and other federal troops to disperse peaceful protesters. Statehood advocates point to the incident as a sign of the unfairness of the current system.
Opponents of statehood argue that the Founding Fathers always intended for D.C. to be under federal control. They deny any racial or partisan motivation for keeping it from becoming the 51st state, and suggest an alternative to statehood would be to merge it into neighboring Maryland or Virginia.
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