Washington, Douglass Commonwealth: The Next US State?

  • May 26,2021 

On Thursday, April 22, 2021, the House of Representatives passed a bill for the US Capitol, Washington DC, to become the 51st State of the United States of America. It is on its way to the Senate and will be debated soon. Some call the bill unconstitutional, while others call the bill a needed change. Why is this topic being brought up? Will federal territory be part of the state? Why would someone support or disagree with this bill? 

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Photo Obtained from THE MILLENNIAL SOURCE (US house approves bill to make Washington DC the 51st state)

Based on the recent voting tally, the bill was voted by the House 216-208, with a majority of Democrats voting in favor and all Republicans voting against it. The last time a state was brought into the US was Hawaii on August 21, 1959. This passing of HR 51 (the name of the bill) seems new and a bit novel. Surprisingly, this bill has been brought up before due to the George Floyd protests of June 2020, bringing up racial injustice issues once again. The House of Representatives passed this bill, but the 116th Senate seemed to have never considered it, likely due to the Senate having been Republican-controlled.

Many arguments in favor of the bill say that the 700,000 residents of Washington DC (a population more than Vermont and Wyoming) reserve the right to have a governor and to have voting representation. Others point that the January 6 Capitol Riot would have been avoided if a governor had been in place. The governor would have had control over the police force and acted more quickly than the president, who, by default at the time, had the police force's power.

Some argue against DC statehood because of the ideal written about by James Madison in The Federalist, in essay #43, “...but a dependence of the members of the general government on the State comprehending the seat of the government, for protection in the exercise of their duty, might bring on the national councils an imputation of awe or influence, equally dishonorable to the government and dissatisfactory to the other members of the Confederacy.” In simpler words, Madison wrote this essay as a founding father of the US; according to critics, the words written by Madison should be followed and not be conflicted with. Another reason against the bill was brought up recently due to the new Democratic president, Joe Biden. Because DC mainly being a Democratic state, statehood would give the current president three extra electoral votes, which is not preferred by Republicans.

If the bill passes, and DC becomes a state, most federal buildings and land would not be part of the state; instead, they would be dubbed “The Capitol.” Some of these would include the National Mall, the Capitol Building, and the White House. However, the rest of the city would be named “Washington, Douglass Commonwealth,” after Fredrick Douglass. He lived there between 1877 and 1895 instead of “Washington, District of Columbia” (however, both have the same name abbreviation).

All in all, the Washington DC residents have been asking for their freedom for a while. It is possible that  DC's addition to the US as the 51st state will impact the history books.