Manchin pans DC statehood bill in another break with Dems

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Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, arrives to hold a confirmation hearing for Tommy Beaudreau of Alaska, to be deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 29, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON – A long-shot bid to pass legislation that would make the District of Columbia the nation’s 51st state got a little longer on Friday.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said that he opposes unilateral action by Congress to make the nation’s capital a state and that he believes it needs to be done through a constitutional amendment. He said prior Republican and Democratic administrations thought the same thing.

“They all came to the same conclusion. If Congress wants to make D.C. a state, it should propose a constitutional amendment,” Manchin said in an interview with the West Virginia MetroNews radio network. “It should propose a constitutional amendment and let the people of America vote.”

Earlier this month, the House approved a bill strictly along party lines to make the District of Columbia a state with one representative and two senators, while a tiny sliver of land including the White House, the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall would remain a federal district.

An identical statehood bill passed the House in 2020, but it died in the then-Republican-controlled Senate. Now, with the 2020 elections having given Democrats control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, some have been pushing to eliminate the filibuster so that only a simple majority in the Senate would be needed to get legislation passed. The D.C. statehood bid would be one of the initiatives that could conceivably pass under such a scenario.

Still, such a tactic would require total Democratic unity, and Friday’s radio interview with Manchin demonstrated anew that they don’t have it.

Manchin has also stated unequivocally that he will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster. He is among a handful of Democratic senators who have not openly supported the D.C. statehood initiative.

Republicans argued during the House vote that the measure wouldn’t withstand judicial scrutiny. Manchin said he would “tell his friends” that if they pursued statehood through legislation, “you know it’s going to go to the Supreme Court.”