Joe Manchin opposes DC statehood bill in blow to Dem push for more Senate seats
A long-shot bid to pass legislation that would make the District of Columbia the nation’s 51st state got a little longer on Friday.
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said that he opposes unilateral action by Congress to make the nation’s capital a state and that he believes it needs to be done through a constitutional amendment. He said prior Republican and Democratic administrations thought the same thing.
“If Congress wants to make D.C. a state, it should propose a constitutional amendment,” Mr. Manchin, a centrist Democrat, said in a radio interview with WV Metro News. “It should propose a constitutional amendment and let the people of America vote.”
DC statehood would result in two new senators and one new voting member of the House. All likely would be Democrats, given President Biden took more than 92 percent of the city’s vote last year.
Earlier this month, the House approved a bill strictly along party lines to make the District of Columbia a 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 a federal district.
In the intervening years, local Democrats pushed into party orthodoxy a proposal to shrink the federal district described in the Constitution to only include the White House, the US Capitol and federal buildings flanking the National Mall.
Although the idea has won near universal backing among Democrats, it has not swayed centrist Republicans in the Senate, where Democrats hold a bare 50-50 majority with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking ties in their favor. Typical swing-voting Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) indicated they didn’t support the bill.
Conservative opponents of DC statehood have long advocated that DC be given back to Maryland if residents want voting representation in Congress and have put forward an array of arguments premised on the views of the Founding Fathers.
But former President Donald Trump forged new ground last year by telling The Post — in his first remarks on DC statehood as president — that Republicans must oppose the idea because it would benefit Democrats.
“DC will never be a state,” Trump told The Post. “You mean District of Columbia, a state? Why? So we can have two more Democratic — Democrat senators and five more congressmen? No thank you. That’ll never happen.”
Trump added: “They want to do that so they pick up two automatic Democrat — you know it’s 100 percent Democrat, basically — so why would the Republicans ever do that? That’ll never happen unless we have some very, very stupid Republicans around that I don’t think you do. You understand that, right?”
Republican politicians have embraced that previously unspoken truth.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said at his Republican National Convention speech last year that DC statehood must be opposed to prevent Democratic legislation from passing.
“They want to tell you what kind of car you can drive. What sources of information are credible. And even how many hamburgers you can eat,” he said. “And they want to codify all this by making the swamp itself, Washington, D.C., America’s 51st state. With two more liberal senators, we cannot undo the damage they’ve done.”