The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on statehood for Washington, DC They’re doing this, as is clearly allowed by the Constitution, as simple legislation: The bill would shrink the constitutionally mandated federal district to include just the federal government buildings and monuments, while putting all the district’s residents into the 51st state.
It’s a good idea. While it won’t happen this year, the chances of its happening the next time Democrats have unified control of government are now pretty high.
Why do I say that? In practical terms, statehood for the district — which is overwhelmingly Democratic — has become almost completely a partisan fight. Democrats want the two extra senators they would surely get; Republicans oppose it. It wasn’t always the case that Democrats saw DC statehood in terms of party advantage. The last time statehood got a vote, in 1993, the Democrats split (all but one Republican opposed it).
Several things have changed since then. Both parties are now more likely to see everything in terms of future party advantage. And on the Democratic side, it matters that Black party actors in addition to Black
voters have become a more important part of the party’s coalition. There’s a good chance the district’s senators would be Black, and the party collectively is more comfortable showing itself as truly diverse.
It also helps within the Democratic Party that at a time when Black protesters are demanding progress in many difficult policy areas, statehood for Washington would also serve as an easy symbolic gain. That’s not to say it’s only symbolic, but to the extent that it is, the issue can be fully resolved with no complicating consequences. (As opposed to, say, fundamentally restructuring local policing.)
Combine all those things, and the question of DC statehood has moved from being a marginal policy question to a fairly high-ranking item on the Democratic Party agenda.
The big obstacle in that case will be a Senate filibuster by Republicans seeking to block it.