CHEYENNE — The three federal delegates from Wyoming, a state often mentioned in discussions of whether to grant statehood to Washington, D.C., have come out strongly opposed to a bill the House of Representatives passed Thursday that would make the U.S. capital the nation’s 51st state.
The legislation, which was approved in the House along party lines Thursday, would establish Washington as the nation’s 51st state and grant it a single House representative and two senators to represent the area’s more than 700,000 residents. The population of D.C. is slightly higher than that of Wyoming, which has an estimated 578,000 residents, according to U.S. Census data.
Statehood for the nation’s capital, where about 46 percent of residents are Black, has long been called for among some D.C. residents, who argue it is crucial to provide full enfranchisement to the area’s residents. With President Joe Biden backing statehood for D.C. after taking office earlier this year, it has gained newfound momentum among many Democrats amid a broader push to improve voting access.
While the bill passed out of the House, marking its second passage in the Democrat-majority chamber in less than a year, it faces an uphill battle in the Senate, with the chambers evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, who have repeatedly criticized the measure as a power grab, given the area’s residents largely vote Democrat.
Among the critical Republicans is Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, who stated his opposition to the House’s proposal in a statement provided to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on Thursday.
“Statehood for Washington, D.C. goes completely against the intentions of our Founding Fathers, as expressed in our Constitution,” Barrasso said in the statement. “The Democrats already announced last week they want to pack the U.S. Supreme Court. Now they want to pack the U.S. Senate with two more liberal senators from an area with the highest percentage of registered Democrats in the country.”
A spokeswoman for Wyoming’s other senator, Republican Sen. Cynthia Lummis, also condemned the proposal as “a thinly veiled power grab by the left” in a statement provided to the WTE Thursday.
“Like Democrat efforts to pack the Supreme Court, abolish the electoral college and overturn state voter ID laws, the push for D.C. statehood is nothing more than a thinly veiled power grab by the left,” Lummis press secretary Abegail Cave said in a statement.
“The Founders did not believe creating the District of Columbia would result in ‘taxation without representation’ for its residents because they felt that the entire Congress would represent the District and take a special interest in its affairs since many members of Congress would live there or commute to the city regularly.”
“Whether or not Congress considers District of Columbia issues sufficiently in committee hearings and legisla- tion is a much different question than statehood, and one that Senator Lummis is happy to consider,” she added.
Lawmakers have frequently referred to the views of the nation’s founders in arguments against statehood. In the Federalist Papers, James Madison called the setup an “indispensable necessity” to ensure the federal government’s avoidance of undue influence from the state in which it sits. Currently, Washington, D.C. has three electoral votes – the same as Wyoming – following the passage of the 23rd Amendment in 1961, along with a single non-voting congressperson.
In the House, Wyoming’s sole delegate, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, was among the unified block of GOP lawmakers to vote against the bill Thursday. Jeremy Adler, Cheney’s communications director, told the WTE that her opposition was “because the bill was unconstitutional, and the way it was written would have given D.C. six electoral votes.” The argument over constitutionality has often been cited by GOP lawmakers, who have noted the creation of a standalone federal district is enshrined in the Constitution.
Although the battle for Washington, D.C. statehood is one being fought hundreds of miles away from Wyoming, the Equality State’s population – the lowest of any state – has occasionally been cited by national outlets in arguments to grant statehood to the more populated D.C. area, though some have pushed back on the suggestion. Last summer, when the House gave its approval to a statehood bill for the first time in history, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., argued Wyoming was more deserving of statehood than the nation’s capital, despite its higher population.
“Wyoming is smaller than Washington by population, but it has three times as many workers in mining, logging and construction, and 10 times as many workers in manufacturing,” Cotton said on the Senate floor. “In other words, Wyoming is a well-rounded, working-class state. A new state of Washington would not be.”
After last year’s statehood bill was never considered by the Senate, it remains to be seen whether the statehood bill will go anywhere in the chamber this time around. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pledged this week that “we will try to work a path to get (statehood) done,” according to a report from the Washington Post.