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D.C. Statehood 2021

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The House is going to pass a D.C. Statehood bill, suggesting that the Democratic leadership is finally starting to understand the realities of our political moment:

If the House of Representatives passes a bill granting statehood to the District of Columbia on June 26, as is expected, it will be the first time in the nation’s history that either house of Congress approved legislation granting full statehood and congressional representation to DC’s more than 700,000 residents.

For at least the next several months, the bill is highly unlikely to travel far beyond the House. There’s little chance that the Republican-controlled Senate will agree to give two senators to an overwhelmingly Democratic city. And even if the bill somehow managed to pass the Senate, President Donald Trump has said that Republicans would be “very, very stupid” to allow DC statehood. He’s all but certain to veto the bill.

But statehood for the District of Columbia, whose residents pay federal taxes but have no vote in Congress, is arguably closer than it’s ever been.Trump trails Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who endorsed DC statehood in 2015, by more than 8 points, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average. Polls now indicate that Democrats have a good chance to regain the Senate as well, despite malapportionment that gives Republicans an unfair advantage in the fight for control of Congress’ upper house.

Not that long ago, DC statehood found little support within the halls of Congress. The last time the House voted on statehood, in 1993, the bill failed 153-277. Democrats, in what now looks like an extraordinary act of political malpractice, did not push statehood when they last controlled both houses of Congress and the White House in 2009-2010. President Barack Obama did not endorse DC statehood until 2014.

But Democratic support for statehood swelled as the party was forced to confront the impact of a malapportioned Senate that overrepresents white and rural states, effectively giving extra seats to Republicans. Among other things, that malapportionment cost Democrats control of the Supreme Court. If the Senate were fairly apportioned, Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland would be a justice right now.

Congressional Dems refusing to do things — like making the Senate more representative and giving residents of Washington D.C. meaningful legislative representation — that are both obviously right on the merits and in the political interests of the party while Republicans play constitutional hardball has been a serious problem. This suggests that they’re beginning to learn, and the most important test will be whether the next Dem trifecta (hopefully starting in 2021) recognizing the filibuster needs to go and a bill expanding voting rights is the perfect vehicle to blow it up.

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