D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser on Friday called for a citywide vote in November on making the nation’s capital the 51st state, resurrecting a decades-old plan to thrust the issue before Congress and raise awareness across the country about District residents’ lack of full citizenship. “I propose we take another bold step toward democracy in the District of Columbia,” Bowser (D) said at a breakfast attracting hundreds of city residents, Democratic members of Congress and civil rights leaders marking the 154th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation of slaves in the nation’s capital. “It’s going to require that we send a bold message to the Congress and the rest of the country that we demand not only a vote in the House of Representatives,” she said. “We demand two senators — the full rights of citizenship in this great nation.” The mayor’s announcement appeared poised to ratchet up tension between the District’s Democratic majority and its federal overseers in a Republican-controlled Congress.
The District is already challenging Congress over its authority to approve local city spending. This year, for the first time, Bowser and the D.C. Council plan to enact a local spending plan — totaling $13 billion — without congressional appropriation of those funds. Instead, the city will begin spending its money unless federal lawmakers act to stop it.
While some conservatives have expressed support for giving the District more control of its local tax dollars, Republicans have universally said statehood remains a non-starter. Statehood would give the District — which has never elected anyone other than a Democrat to citywide office in an open election — two Senate seats that could tip the balance of power in the chamber for years to come.