Sen. Joe Manchin, the average Democrat from West Virginia, stated in an interview Friday that he opposes laws to give Washington, D.C., statehood — successfully killing a Democratic-led effort to reshape the American political map.
“If Congress wants to make D.C. a state, it should propose a constitutional amendment and let the people of America vote,” Manchin instructed WV MetroNews Talkline, a West Virginia information outlet.
Asked immediately if he would oppose unilateral motion by Congress to make the district a state, Manchin replied, “Yes, I would.”
Stasha Rhodes, the marketing campaign director for the pro-D.C.-statehood group 51 for 51, stated in response that Manchin’s state happened by laws. “It is how West Virginia was admitted in 1863, how Hawaii was admitted in 1959, and how D.C. will be admitted in 2021,” she said. “No member of the Senate should deny voting rights to 700,000 mostly Black and brown Washingtonians based on a flimsy understanding of the Constitution and American history.”
The Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed a bill last week, 216-208, along party lines, that would make the nation’s capital the 51st state. President Joe Biden has endorsed the measure, but Democrats have a 50-50 majority in the Senate and lack Republican support, meaning they cannot afford any defections in order to pass it in the current Congress.
In addition to unifying their caucus, passing the bill would also require the abolition of the filibuster. Manchin sided with legal scholars who say that D.C. statehood would require a change to the Constitution. However, other experts believe Congress can get around that by remaking a part of the District of Columbia, where the White House and Capitol are located, the “seat of the Government of the United States,” as the Constitution says, and let the rest of the city of 700,000 become a state.
The legislation that passed the House proposes that by creating a 51st state with one representative and two senators, while a tiny sliver of land including the White House, the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall would remain as a federal district. Instead of the District of Columbia, the new state would be known as Washington, Douglass Commonwealth — named after famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who lived in Washington from 1877 until his death in 1895.
An identical statehood bill passed the House in 2020, but it died in the then-GOP-controlled Senate.
Manchin noted that even if Congress were to pass a statehood bill and have it signed into law, “you realize it is going to go to the Supreme Court.”