West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin became the first Democrat to oppose a bill that would give statehood to Washington D.C., CBS News reports.
"If Congress wants to make D.C. a state, it should propose a constitutional amendment," Manchin said in a local radio interview on Friday. "It should propose a constitutional amendment and let the people of America vote."
Manchin’s comments came after the House voted down party lines to grant statehood to DC while leaving the White House, Capitol and National Mall under federal control.
The bill is now headed to the Senate, but its passage was likely doomed even before Manchin’s statement because it would need 60 votes to defeat a filibuster and Republicans have roundly opposed the measure.
Still, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed to bring the bill to a vote.
Democrats push back on Manchin:
Manchin claimed that the 23rd Amendment, which gave DC representation in the Electoral College but no voting representatives, meant that the bill would not stand up to court review and "you know it's going to go to the Supreme Court."
DC’s non-voting delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton pushed back on that argument, saying that "those who make such an assertion are conflating a policy choice and a constitutional requirement."
"No new state was admitted by constitutional amendment. All 37 new states were admitted by Congress, and there has never been a successful constitutional challenge to the admission of a state. The Constitution commits admission decisions solely to Congress," she said.
"The Constitution — including the 23rd Amendment — does nothing to prohibit the granting of statehood to the District of Columbia, nor does it establish a minimum state size or the location of the federal district,” said a spokesman for Sen. Tom Carper, the lead Senate sponsor of the bill. “The Constitution does, however, lay out the process by which states are admitted to the Union — and D.C. is now taking those same steps that 37 other states have taken since 1791.”
Manchin insists on amendment:
Manchin cited past administrations’ views on DC statehood to defend his argument, noting that “Bobby Kennedy said in 1963 that Congress and the states” chose to give DC electoral votes but not statehood “in the form of a constitutional amendment.”
“Hence, it is arguable that the choice can now be reconsidered only by means of another constitutional amendment.”
Manchin said that Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan “all came to the same conclusion: If Congress wants to make D.C. a state, it should propose a constitutional amendment. It should propose a constitutional amendment and let the people of America vote.”