May 8, 2021

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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) on Friday said he opposes unilateral action by Congress to make Washington, D.C., a state. Instead, Congress “should propose a constitutional amendment and let the people of America vote,” the centrist Democrat told West Virginia’s MetroNews in a radio interview.

Stasha Rhodes, the campaign director for the pro-statehood group 51 for 51, pushed back against Manchin’s comments, arguing that other states, including his own West Virginia, achieved their status through the legislative process. “No member of the Senate should deny voting rights to 700,000 mostly Black and brown Washingtonians based on a flimsy understanding of the Constitution and American history,” Rhodes said.

But Manchin, citing legal scholars, said that D.C. differs from other situations because of the 23rd Amendment, which in 1961 gave the district Electoral College votes and U.S. citizens residing there the right to vote in presidential elections. Therefore, Manchin’s opinion suggests that lawmakers at the time specifically opted not to make D.C. a state, complicating its path to that status.

Ultimately, Manchin’s opposition probably doesn’t change the trajectory of the movement to grant D.C. statehood in the near future, given that there is little, if any, chance enough Republican senators would back a bill passed by the House in April. But the announcement is still viewed as a momentum killer for advocates of the issue, Politico reports, because even if Democrats eventually got rid of the filibuster, they would not have the 50 votes (plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaker) required. A few other Democrats remain undecided on D.C. statehood, as well. Read more at Politico and NBC News. Tim O’Donnell

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