Well Of Course Joe Manchin Won't Support DC Statehood
Get out your smelling salts, because Joe Manchin has announced that he will not support the DC Statehood bill that passed in the House last week. Which means, unfortunately, that it is highly unlikely to pass the Senate, because at this point all that matters with any bill is whether or not Joe Manchin can be personally persuaded to vote for it.
His line here is that it would just be wrong for a state to be admitted by legislation from Congress — as many states, including his own state of West Virginia, have been — and that instead
"If Congress wants to make D.C. a state, it should propose a constitutional amendment and let the people of America vote," Manchin said in a radio interview on Friday.
He also claimed that the issue was "complicated" by the 23rd Amendment, which gave DC electoral votes.
It gave D.C. residents the right to vote in presidential elections, but it complicates D.C.'s pathway to statehood, because Congress had three options to choose from back in 1961. They could either have D.C. statehood, they could have retrocession to Maryland … or they could have granted electoral votes to D.C.
Manchin says he believes that because a constitutional amendment gave DC the electoral votes, a constitutional amendment would be needed to make it a state. He did not explain exactly why he thought that, but insisted that "legal scholars" backed him up on this.
Making Washington DC a state has been a priority for Democrats for some time now, and not just because it might result in an electoral advantage. It just feels wrong for 700,000 American citizens to not have representation in Congress or the Senate — and the fact is, if DC were a swing state it wouldn't even be an issue. It's obviously not something anyone should be okay with. But because the Senate is currently 50-50, it's not going to pass without every Democrat voting for it.
In fact, almost nothing is. Which makes Joe Manchin the most important person in the whole Senate.
While the conservative Democrat is frequently the biggest impediment to getting Democratic legislation passed, there's something especially poetic about it this time. Republicans fear that admitting DC as a state could lessen their power, because the District is reliably Democratic. That much is obvious. But were DC to be made a state, Manchin would likely lose his power as well. With two more Democratic Senators, his would not be the only opinion that mattered when it came to getting things passed. In fact, it is likely that no one (except Republicans, depending on the makeup of the Senate at the time) would care what he wanted at all, because Democrats would be able to pass bills without his say-so.
It's not surprising that he wouldn't want to give that up. It's clear he imagines himself as the dam that prevents things from going too far to the left whenever a majority of people in this country vote for Democrats, and he likes his role. That's understandable. There are also more conservative Democrats who appreciate him having this role as well. But the fact is, as much as he may like things this way, as much as Republicans may like holding onto their power, as much as some American citizens might fear that DC statehood would result in the country going further left than they would like, that doesn't change the fact that DC residents are American citizens and as such, should be entitled to representation in Congress. 700,000 American citizens, most of them people of color, should not have to take a pass on having that representation because one old white dude wants to hold on to his power.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse