UPDATED 11:00 AM PT – Saturday, May 1, 2021
Democrats’ plan to turn the nation’s capital into a state just got a little tougher after a key swing vote signaled his opposition. On Friday, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (D) claimed that granting Washington D.C. statehood should not be done by a partisan Congress.
This came after House Democrats inched closer to creating America’s 51st state in mid-April, in a vote strictly along party lines. Manchin said several past administrations have looked into the issue and all came to the same conclusion: Statehood should be granted through a constitutional amendment.
“President Reagan’s Justice Department carefully, really carefully, reviewed it with legal scholars in 1987,” Manchin noted. “President Carter’s Justice Department did the same thing 10 years before that. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy looked into it. They all came to the same conclusion. If Congress wants to make D.C. a state, it should propose a constitutional amendment.”
The moderate Democrat went on to describe the historical debate around granting Washington D.C. statehood. He said a landmark moment in the debate came during the ratification of the 23rd Amendment in 1961, which gave more power to district electors in the electoral college.
Manchin argued this halted momentum for supporters of statehood by settling on giving Washington D.C. three electors and the ability to vote in presidential elections.
Additionally, he claimed Congress had two other choices regarding Washington D.C.: To either grant it statehood then and there, or Congress should have allowed D.C. to become a state through retrocession by putting it in the jurisdiction of Maryland and letting state officials give it up.
Manchin stressed, any concrete steps toward granting D.C. statehood would be met by judicial review at the U.S. Supreme Court.
“You know it’s going to go to the Supreme Court,” Manchin said. “Every legal scholar has told us that. So, why not do it the right way and let the people vote and see if they want a change?”
Additionally, Manchin signaled his opposition to several other Democrat proposals, including Joe Biden’s nearly $2.75 trillion infrastructure package and the For the People Act.
Manchin advocated for rolling back non-infrastructure provisions and finding a better solution for how Congress should pay for infrastructure.
As for voting rights, the West Virginia senator said the For the People Act is too far-reaching and should focus on protecting voters by making voting accessible, secure and fair.