US House passes law to make Washington DC a new state

June 26, 2020

The House of Representatives has approved a law that would make Washington DC the country's 51st state - if it were to pass the next stage.

It is the first time a chamber of Congress has passed a DC statehood bill, despite decades of demands from Democratic politicians.

With 700,000 residents, the mainly Democrat-supporting region's population is larger than those of Wyoming and Vermont.

And though the bill faces seemingly insurmountable opposition in the Senate, if it were to be passed, the new state would be one of seven with populations under one million.

The Democratic-controlled House insists the city's inhabitants should be allowed full voting rights and should no longer be subject to "taxation without representation".

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district's non-voting representative in Congress, said the region's $15.5bn annual budget is larger than those of 12 states, and DC's triple-A bond rating is higher that those of 35 states.

But opponents - mostly Republicans - have condemned the bill as a power grab.

Representative Chip Roy from Texas said: "This is about power. Make no mistake about it." He added that the bill would "fundamentally alter what DC is".

Last month, Donald Trump said "DC will never be a state" because that would pave the way for two more Democratic senators.

"No, thank you. That'll never happen," he said.

Earlier this year in one piece of legislation, the capital was classified as a territory, rather than a state. That distinction cost the region more than $700m in federal funding.

Sky News' US Correspondent Amanda Walker said: "DC's over 700,000 residents pay some of the highest taxes in the country but they have no representation in Congress, meaning they have no say in how their tax dollars are spent.

"The fight has been going on since 1980. The last time the House of Representatives voted on statehood was in 1993 where the bill failed by a big margin.

"In 2000, D.C. started printing 'Taxation Without Representation' on all of the city's license plates. The push has gained momentum in the battle for racial justice following the death of George Floyd.

"The latest bill passed in the Democrat controlled House but will likely fail in the Republican controlled Senate.

"Under the legislation the new state would be granted one voting representative in the House and two in the Senate - all likely Democrats - which is why President Trump has said he would veto the bill."

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