The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives has voted to make Washington, DC the 51st US state and ditch the problematic reference to Christopher Columbus for the more woke Frederick Douglass. The Senate is unlikely to care.
In addition to becoming the 51st state of the union, the bill would change what “DC” stands for, from the District of Columbia – named after the increasingly unpopular Italian explorer whose statues are being toppled all over the country – to “Douglass Commonwealth,” after the freed slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
The bill passed the House on Friday in a vote split almost exactly along party lines, with a single Democrat venturing a ‘no’ on the measure for a total of 232 for to 180 against. However, it’s unlikely to see a vote in the Republican-dominated Senate, not least because giving DC statehood would outfit it with two – likely Democratic – senators, placing both chambers of Congress under the control of that party.
The Democrats wasted no time in bringing up the initiative to make the American capital a state less than a week after the idea resurfaced on Twitter. Prior to that, it had been simmering on the legislative back burner since last year, when it was debated for the first time since 1993. Posted first by the account of the NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue, it spread like wildfire through the ranks of Democratic representatives – who apparently had nothing more pressing on their agenda during a pandemic that has sickened over 2.5 million Americans and put tens of millions more out of work.
Advocates for statehood point out that the District’s 700,000 residents, over 46 percent of whom are black, are effectively disenfranchised under the existing system, in which they are represented by a single member of Congress who doesn’t even have a vote. The bill that passed on Friday gets around previous issues with DC statehood by reducing the ‘federal district’ the constitution mandates as the nation’s capital to a two-square-mile area containing the White House, Capitol, Supreme Court, monuments, and office buildings belonging to the three branches of government.
Aside from the advantage it would give the Democrats, Republican opponents of statehood for the District pointed to the unrest that has roiled the area in recent weeks.
“Would you trust Mayor [Muriel] Bowser to keep Washington safe if she were given the powers of a governor?” Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) asked ahead of the vote on Friday.
Bowser infamously ordered the National Guard to leave DC after President Donald Trump sent them in to suppress riots that followed the police killing of George Floyd last month. Cotton also pointed out that the majority of the district’s professionals are lobbyists and federal workers – not exactly the kind of industries on which one can build a thriving economy.
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