“We believe that including D.C. statehood in S-1 offers the most viable path to enfranchising the 700,000 mostly Black and brown citizens of D.C.,” said Stasha M. Rhodes, a campaign director for the pro-statehood coalition 51 for 51, referring to the bill number of the Senate proposal. “We think it is our responsibility to ensure that D.C. statehood is not left out of the conversation.”
The call to include statehood in broad Democratic legislation that would institute fundamental changes in the nation’s conduct of elections and campaigns is a strategic shift for the activists. They had coalesced behind an independent measure that would make the District of Columbia the 51st state and entitle residents who pay federal taxes to voting representation in the House and Senate. The change in tactics is not endorsed by Senate backers of the legislation, who still see a separate statehood bill as the best approach for both statehood and the voting rights measure.
But the activists said they feared that the amount of political capital that would need to be expended to pass the so-called For the People measure over deep Republican resistance would leave little remaining to push the statehood bill. They want to make sure Congress acts while President Biden, a statehood supporter, is in the White House and Democrats hold majorities in the House and Senate.