Statehood for Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, “will make our Union stronger and more just,” the statement adds, going on to implicitly respond to some of the embarrassingly weak Republican arguments against statehood by noting, “Washington, D.C. has a robust economy, a rich culture, and a diverse population of Americans from all walks of life who are entitled to full and equal participation in our democracy.”
The statement concludes by highlighting the legality of the process, which has been used so many times before—in fact, well over half of current senators were born when there were fewer than 50 states—saying “The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress as H.R. 51 proceeds through the legislative process to ensure that it comports with Congress’ constitutional responsibilities and its constitutional authority to admit new states to the Union by legislation. The Administration calls for the Congress to provide for a swift and orderly transition to statehood for the people of Washington, D.C.”
While the formal statement is new, Biden’s support is not. In a 2015 press conference with the District’s mayor, then-Vice President Biden said, “You should be a state.” And last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki reaffirmed that Biden “believes they deserve representation, that’s why he supports D.C. statehood.”
Washington, D.C., has a larger population than either Wyoming or Vermont, each of which get two senators and a member of the House, while the District gets only one non-voting delegate. The statehood debate also speaks to racial equality: Currently, “The average Black American voting power is only 75 percent as much representation as the average white American in the Senate and a 55 percent to the Hispanic voter,” and the District’s population is plurality Black.
Statehood legislation has passed the House before and is expected to pass this time, but of course as long as Senate Republicans are able to filibuster it, they will do so. This is one more priority, therefore, that rests on the willingness of conservative Democrats to reform or abolish the filibuster.