U.S. House Passes D.C. Statehood Bill, But Lacks Votes in Senate

For the second time, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a measure to make the District of Columbia the 51st state, sending the historic bill to the Senate on a party-line vote.

“We look forward to a swift vote in the Senate on this essential legislation,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said ahead of Thursday’s 216-208 vote.

But if the narrowly Democratic-controlled Senate were to speedily bring up the measure, it would be all but guaranteed to fail.

More senators have co-sponsored the statehood bill than ever before. However, five members of the Democratic caucus have not signed on: Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona; Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire; Joe Manchin of West Virginia; and Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

Hesitation from this handful of lawmakers, plus the Senate’s 60-vote threshold that would necessitate support from some Republicans, means the proposal is unlikely to reach the president’s desk anytime soon.

A spokeswoman for Shaheen, who previously co-sponsored a statehood bill, said Thursday that the senator supports D.C. statehood “because she believes that every citizen deserves equal representation in Congress.” But she did not provide an explanation on why Shaheen has not cosponsored the current measure.

“I haven’t made a decision on it one way or the other,” Kelly told Capitol Hill reporters this week, according to a pool feed. “I’ll make a decision ultimately based on what’s in the best interest of our country.”

“As of now, I’m undecided,” King told another Capitol Hill reporter. His office did not respond to a message seeking additional comment on the proposal.

A spokeswoman for Sinema did not respond to requests for comment on the legislation.

While the odds of enactment remain long, Thursday’s House vote comes as at a time when D.C. statehood has blossomed as a mainstream issue for Democrats. When a statehood bill first came up for a House vote in 1993, more than 100 Democrats opposed the idea.

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