“Statehood for the District of Columbia is about showing respect for our democracy, for the American people and for our Constitution,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said on the House floor on Thursday. “For more than two centuries, the people in Washington, D.C., have been denied their right to fully participate in our and their democracy.”
Republicans have mounted a fierce campaign against the legislation, insisting it was not about equal representation, but ensuring that Democrats would secure three reliable votes — two in the Senate and one in the House — and pad their slim margins in both chambers. During an hour of debate, several Republican lawmakers criticized the bill as an unconstitutional affront to what the country’s founders intended when they established the nation’s capital.
“They never wanted the seat of our government to be a state, and they specifically framed the Constitution to say so,” said Representative Jody B. Hice, Republican of Georgia. “And yet, what the Democrats really are trying to do, that they will not admit, is gaining even more representation by creating a city-state whereby they get two more senators.”
Other Republicans have pushed for retroceding the nation’s capital into Maryland as a solution to ensure representation, a suggestion that has been repeatedly rejected by both Washingtonians and Marylanders.
“Instead of jumping to full-fledged statehood — which would conveniently add two brand-new Democrats to the U.S. Senate — we should address the underlying issue, which is representation,” Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, said in a statement before the vote.
He said he would be open to giving Ms. Norton, or her successor, full voting rights on the House floor. “Let’s respect the institutions of our democracy and have real conversations about fair congressional representation for the District of Columbia,” he said.