House Passes Bill to Grant D.C. Statehood, But There is a Long Battle Ahead as it Moves to Senate

The license plate of US President Barack Obama's limo is pictured on January 19, 2013 in Washington DC. Obama's limousine is now adorned withe "Taxation Without Representation" license plates.
Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images

"We are more close than we've ever been before," Stasha Rhodes, campaign manager for the nonprofit 51for51, told Inside Edition Digital. 

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to pass a piece of legislation that would make Washington, D.C. the country's 51st state. Lawmakers and advocacy groups are optimistic that for the first time in the U.S. capital's 230-year history, statehood is a possibility.

But even with House approval, the bill will likely face an uphill battle in the Senate where it will require a 60-vote threshold to pass.

"We are more close than we've ever been before," Stasha Rhodes, campaign manager for the nonprofit 51for51 a coalition fighting to make D.C. the 51st state, told Inside Edition Digital. 

The House voted Thursday in favor with 216-208 to pass the bill, H.R. 51. The bill would grant D.C. two U.S. senators and voting representation in the House. Statehood would also be a triumphant move for the fight for racial justice, making D.C. the only state in the country to have a plurality of Black residents, according to reports.

Last June, the House of Representatives voted 232-180 to pass the piece of legislation, but the bill was never brought to the Senate, which was Republican-controlled at the time. Now that there is a Democratic majority in both chambers, lawmakers are making a second attempt for statehood.

That vote marked the first time in the nation’s history that either house of Congress approved legislation that would allow full statehood and congressional representation to DC’s more than 700,000 residents.

The White House said on Tuesday that it "strongly supports" the bill.

As it stands, D.C. residents are among the highest paying taxpayers in the country. They pay more in federal taxes than 22 states and pay more in taxes per capita than residents of any other state, according to the non-profit 51for51 and other advocacy groups.

The debate over D.C. statehood has been centered on how it would impact Congress. Given that 92.1 percent of D.C. residents voted for Joe Biden Republican opponents are wary that statehood would add two additional Democratic senators to Congress, according to voting data published by the Washington Post.

Former President Donald Trump told the New York Post in an interview that he would never consider D.C. statehood because Republicans aren't "stupid" enough to give additional Democratic seats in Congress's upper house.

But with overwhelming support in the House and a Democratic majority in the Senate, statehood for residents of the District of Columbia is closer than it's ever been.

"We are on our way this time," the district’s non-voting delegate, Congresswoman Eleanor Norton Holmes, who first introduced the bill, told Inside Edition Digital a day before the House vote. "It's both political and personal. My own family has been in the District of Columbia for 200 years. We are on our way towards equality as other Americans."

"There's an awareness gap," Norton continued. "When people think of D.C. they think of the capital the monument but they don't think about the over 700,000 residents living there that are locked out of the democracy. They don't think about the fact that most of the residents of D.C. are disconnected from politics."

"And I'm optimistic about the Senate," Norton added.

"Equal representation in Congress for more than 700,000 mostly Black and Brown Washingtonians is a critical voting rights issue and it’s no longer enough for Congress to support or talk about democratic reforms while leaving D.C. statehood on the legislative back burner," Rhodes wrote in a statement after the House vote Thursday. "We want to see the Senate make statehood part of this generation’s civil rights legacy no matter what.”  

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