What’s the likelihood of another Washington (DC) state?

Apr 27, 2021, 12:23 PM
D.C. statehood...
An empty Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and U.S. Capitol building on Jan.15, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
(Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

With more talk about granting statehood to Washington, D.C., Washington Post reporter (and D.C. resident) David Fahrenthold weighs in on the likelihood of a 51st state.

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“The momentum behind it, I think, is kind of at the high water mark that it’s ever been, which is not nearly high enough to get it passed,” Fahrenthold explained. “It’s just passed the House of Representatives. I don’t think it has the support to overcome the filibuster in the Senate. In fact, I know it doesn’t because I think everybody recognizes it would add two more Democratic senators and one more Democratic representative. The Republicans who make up almost half of the Senate would not — or half of the Senate — would not want that.”

“So you hear some arguments about, well, D.C. shouldn’t be a state because it doesn’t have any farms, or D.C. shouldn’t be a state because it doesn’t have any factories. But really, nobody wants to add two — or Republicans don’t want to add two Democratic senators,” he added.

Fahrenthold does think it might be more likely for D.C. to become a state if the United States had 49 states and not 50.

“You laugh, but I honestly think that if we had 49 states now and adding D.C. would get us to 50 that this would seem like a much more plausible idea,” he said. “But the fact that is we’re at 50 now, such a good even number, and D.C. would make it 51. And the flag would look a little odd. I’m sure you could do it, but I think that’s part of what makes this sound unnatural is where it’s such a good round number now, people don’t want to mess with it.”

In addition to the political play of statehood, Fahrenthold recognizes there are some good arguments for the idea.

“There are a lot of great arguments for D.C. statehood. We have more residents in D.C. than Vermont or Wyoming, we’re bigger than some states,” he said. “We have no representation in the Senate and our only representative in Congress can’t vote. So this huge amount of people is not really represented at all in the legislative branch.”

“That said, the arguments that are going to matter to people in Congress are arguments about boosting one political party or the other,” he continued. “Now that, there’s a long tradition of that in American history, that’s why we have two Dakotas instead of one, because people wanted to add two more, wanted four Republican senators instead of two way back when. But given that calculation, it’s going to take a strong Democratic majority in the Senate to make this a likely outcome.”

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What’s the likelihood of another Washington (DC) state?