The House of Representative passed a bill on Thursday that would grant Washington D.C. statehood, advancing legislation introduced by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, one of D.C.’s longest serving nonvoting House members.
Members of Congress voted 216-208, which ensures the bill will go on to the Senate, where support for the bill will face an uphill battle with Republicans in order to make the 60-vote threshold needed for it to be signed into legislation.
The bill initially passed the House in 2020, but was not given a vote in the then-Republican-majority Senate.
“With the passage of the bill today, the residents of the nation’s capital are closer than ever to achieving voting representation in Congress and full local self-government, and the United States is one step closer to deserving the term democracy,” Norton wrote on Twitter after the vote.
The fight to provide residents with the power of a vote seeks to undo a restrictive, anti-Black legacy in Washington D.C. After the Civil War Congress passed legislation giving Black male residents the opportunity to vote. During this period Black communities thrived along with the appointment of several Black political leaders.
However, once the 15th Amendment passed and Reconstruction ended, members of Congress instituted a Board of Commissioners to run the municipal government, which also revoked the voting rights of all D.C. residents in order to allow Congress to pay for 50 percent of the city’s budget.
Congressional members shuttered the voting power in order to prevent another rise of Black power, fearful that Black residents would overrun authority and control elections.
For over 100 years D.C. residents fought to gain representation in Congress, which was granted in 1971 with a nonvoting delegate. With a population over 700,000, D.C. remains largely Black, although gentrification has stripped the region from it’s known existence as a predominantly Black “Chocolate City.”
Civil rights leaders and justice organizations applauded the passage and urged the Senate to vote in favor of the bill.
Former NAACP president Ben Jealous who now serves as President for People For the American Way, tweeted the following:
“The status quo perpetuates continued racial inequity and political suppression of Black Americans. #DCStatehood is a vital step forward in the fight for racial equity, justice and fairness for all. Glad to see the House passed statehood legislation today.”
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund tweeted, “It’s time to let our Senators know, we need to pass #DCStatehoodNow!”
Voting rights activist Stacey Abrams tweeted, “Democracy cannot be fully realized while 702,000 Americans are denied representation. I am proud to support #DCStatehood and commend the House for passing #HR51 today. Now the Senate must move to finally grant full representation in Congress to the people of our nation’s capital.”
“The lack of representation for the people of Washington, D.C., including the more than 300,000 Black Washingtonians, is arguably the biggest example of voter suppression in the country, David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said in a statement sent to NewsOne. “We applaud the U.S. House of Representatives for recognizing this national travesty and advancing legislation to ensure that the more than 700,000 people who call D.C. home have a voice in our national government.
“Ensuring representation for Washington, D.C. is a critical civil rights issue as D.C. boasts one of the largest Black and LGBTQ+ communities in the country,” Johns continued. “We urge the Senate to swiftly take up legislation to grant statehood to D.C. and swift passage of the bill into law.”