Joe Manchin opposes DC statehood bill, dealing a huge blow to its prospects in the Senate

joe manchin 20
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia).

  • Manchin says that the process for DC statehood should be done through a constitutional amendment.
  • “If you go down that path … you know it’s going to go to the Supreme Court,” he said.
  • With intense GOP opposition, Manchin’s position severely imperils the legislation’s passage.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said Friday he would not back a House-passed bill making Washington, DC, the nation’s 51st state, arguing that the process should be done through a constitutional amendment.

During a radio interview on WV MetroNews Talkline, a West Virginia news outlet, Manchin said that he wouldn’t support Democrats unilaterally enacting statehood and said previous Justice Departments had already examined the issue.

“They all came to the same conclusion,” he said. “If Congress wants to make DC a state, it should propose a constitutional amendment. It should propose a constitutional amendment and let the people of America vote.”

When asked, Manchin reiterated said that he would not support a standalone statehood bill.

“I would tell all my friends … if you go down that path because you want to be politically popular … you know it’s going to go to the Supreme Court,” he said. “So why not do it the right way?”

Manchin’s position severely imperils the legislation and underscores the tenuous position that Democrats have in the evenly divided Senate, which the party controls due to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote. Any Democratic defection can doom major legislation, especially with Manchin and Sen. Krysten Sinema of Arizona opposed to eliminating the Senate filibuster, which creates a 60-vote threshold to break.

Read more: Meet Merrick Garland’s inner circle of 18 officials. They’ve got a packed plate investigating major police departments and even Rudy Giuliani.

Late last month, the Democrat-controlled House passed the DC statehood bill, also known as H5 51, which would give the new state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, two senators, a full voting member of Congress, and a governor.

The vote was 216-208, with no Republicans supporting the legislation.

The legislation, which is strongly supported by President Joe Biden, would shrink the size of existing federal district to include landmarks such as the White House, US Capitol, and the National Mall.

GOP congressional leaders have decried the bill as a Democratic-led “power grab,” despite past support for statehood from conservatives like former President Richard Nixon and the late Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona.

But even with united Republican opposition, the bill has run into additional turbulence among Senate Democrats.

The Senate statehood bill (S. 51), which is sponsored by Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, needs 50 Democratic senators and currently only has 44 co-sponsors, with the exclusion of moderates like Manchin, Sinema, and Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona, Angus King of Maine, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

A spokesman for Carper on Friday responded to Manchin’s assertion that the 23rd Amendment would raise constitutional issues for congressional action on the issue.

The 23rd Amendment, which was ratified by the states in 1961, extended voting rights for presidential elections to District residents.

“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,” the spokesman said.

In the 2016 election, District voters backed statehood by a 86% to 14% margin.

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GOP Rep. Jody Hice argued against DC statehood by incorrectly citing a lack of car dealerships

Jody Hice
Rep. Jody Hice (R-Georgia) speaks on the House floor.

  • In citing his opposition to DC statehood, Hice incorrectly said that the city lacks car dealerships.
  • The conservative congressman had long argued that statehood went against the intent of the Framers.
  • The proposed bill, H.R. 51, is likely to pass the House but faces major roadblocks in the Senate.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia is staunchly opposed to statehood for Washington DC, an opinion shared by most congressional Republicans.

During a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Monday to discuss H.R. 51, a Democratic-backed bill that would grant statehood to the District, he incorrectly cited the District’s lack of car dealerships as a rationale against the proposal.

In the past, Hice has largely opposed statehood under his view that it goes against the intention of the Framers, but he expanded on his viewpoint during the hearing.

“DC would be the only state – the only state – without an airport, without a car dealership, without a capital city and without a landfill,” he argued.

Hice was incorrect in his assessment, as the city boasts numerous car dealerships, including a Tesla showroom not far from the Capitol.

Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who represents a congressional district anchored in suburban Washington DC, slammed Hice’s rationale for opposing statehood.

“It was cited that there’s no car dealership in the District of Columbia,” he said. “That’s not a constitutional restriction. It turns out, there is a car dealership in the District of Columbia. At this point, [do] we agree that people in DC should enjoy equal political rights? Of course not, because they’re simply trying to gin up whatever arguments they can think of. These are frivolous arguments.”

After Hice was informed that he was wrong, he walked back his statement, claiming he didn’t know where a dealership in the city was located.

“If there’s a car dealership in DC, I apologize for being wrong,” he said. “I have no idea where it is.”

Read more: Meet the presidential confidants, Delaware’s closely-knit and well-positioned congressional delegation, Joe Biden’s entrusted with cementing his legacy

The House bill is likely to pass the Democratic-controlled House, but it will face major roadblocks in the Senate. While Democrats narrowly control the upper chamber due to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote, Republicans are overwhelmingly opposed to the bill and prevent it from reaching the 60-vote threshold to cut off debate.

There are 215 cosponsors of H.R. 51 in the House and 41 cosponsors of the Senate bill, and all are Democrats.

Earlier in the day, Hice announced that he would challenge Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican who former President Donald Trump repeatedly excoriated for validating the integrity of President Joe Biden’s Georgia victory in the 2020 presidential election.

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