There are plenty of obstacles. The District of Columbia could presumably gain statehood by winning simple majorities in the House and the Senate — the Constitution sets no rules — but the move would surely face a filibuster from Republicans in the Senate, raising the bar to 60 of the chamber’s 100 votes.
Even if statehood were approved, it would face an uncertain fate in court. Congress deliberately fashioned Washington as a federal district, and not a state, after Pennsylvania allowed scores of unpaid soldiers to march on the legislature in Philadelphia in June 1783, causing lawmakers to flee the city. There appears to have been little consideration of what voting rights Washington’s residents would have.
Some experts say only a constitutional amendment could give Washington residents a voice in Congress. Just such an amendment cleared both houses in 1978, but only 16 of the 38 states needed for ratification approved it.
That lack of a voice rankles many in a fast-growing city, who argue that Washington has more residents than Vermont or Wyoming but no say in national affairs.