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D.C. residents are celebrating the Georgia results. That’s because the District’s chances of becoming a state might get a lot bigger.
It is looking like Democrats won both Senate runoffs in Georgia last night. Once the races are officially called, Democrats could have control over the Senate with the narrowest of margins, a 50-50 tie broken by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton re-introduced her D.C. statehood bill, H.R. 51, on the first day of the new Congress. The House of Representatives passed the bill for the first time ever in June, so the bill is expected to pass again given that Democrats maintained control of that chamber.
The bill’s greatest challenge to becoming law is the Senate, where H.R. 51 would need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster under the current rules. D.C. statehood advocates are hopeful that the Senate runoffs in Georgia will give Democrats a simple majority. Democrats could set the Senate rules if they control the chamber.
“The Georgia results give us a window that we haven’t seen in a very long time and it’s going to take everyone,” says DC Vote executive director Bo Shuff. “We have a lot of work to do. I’m excited about the prospect of having to do a lot more work faster.”
The work of the D.C. statehood coalition is two-pronged: educate the general public about D.C. statehood and persuade lawmakers to pass statehood legislation. The latter involves making sure every Senate Democrat supports D.C. statehood—ahem, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin—and deciding how D.C. statehood gets done—abolish the filibuster or pass via the budget reconciliation process.
Another D.C. statehood group, 51 for 51, is working to get lawmakers on the record in their support for bypassing the filibuster in order to make the District the 51st state with just 51 Senate votes. Both President-elect Joe Biden and Harris support the 51 for 51 campaign.
The group is now celebrating the Georgia results, adding that the only “viable path” to D.C. statehood is bypassing the filibuster, “a Jim Crow relic.”
“D.C.’s population is majority-Black and Brown, and its exclusion from the halls of Congress is nothing short of racist. We expect and demand that the House and Senate act within the next 100 days to make D.C. a state and correct this historic injustice,” says 51 for 51 Campaign Director Stasha Rhodes in a statement.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer made statehood a top Democratic priority for the first time ever in 2019. If he becomes the new majority leader, Schumer and the rest of Democratic leadership can make new rules in the Senate. Democratic leadership in the House just changed House rules in favor of D.C., for example, allowing the mayor floor access similar to that of governors. Democrats have various options for what to do about the filibuster, abolish it or set a new precedent as was done in 2013 and 2017.
In light of the Georgia results, Mayor Muriel Bowser effectively told the new Congress to pass D.C. statehood legislation within the first 100 days.
“Washingtonians have waited over 200 years for the representation we deserve as American citizens. And it is not just the residents of DC who bear the burden of our disenfranchisement. To paraphrase Dr. King: when any American is denied democracy, our entire nation is denied those voices and votes,” says Bowser in a Wednesday morning statement. “But now, we are ready to finally fix this injustice by getting statehood on President Biden’s desk within the first 100 days of the 117th Congress.”
What can the average D.C. resident do to make their city a state? “Everybody has a network, no matter who you are and we need to activate all of those networks,” says Shuff. So call friends and family who live outside of D.C., he suggests, inform them about statehood. It could also be as simple as putting up a statehood sign in the yard. Shuff recommends a Neighbors United sign.
—Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? firstname.lastname@example.org)
This post was updated to include a statement from the mayor.
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