“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,” Manchin told West Virginia’s MetroNews in a Friday morning radio interview.
Last week, the House enacted H.R. 51—the Washington, D.C. Admission Act—in a vote of 216-208, supporting the congressional Democrats’ aspect of “no taxation without representation.” But Republicans see the legislation as an illegal plot to add two more Democratic senators.
The legislation, which is supported by President Joe Biden, faces intimidating chances in the evenly-split Senate, as the legislative filibuster would need buy-in from at least 10 Republican senators, regarding all Democrats voting for it. Manchin’s statement of resistance to the measure casts a distant shadow of uncertainty on its end.
Manchin said in the interview that he and his staff had taken a “deep dive” into the bill and its history, including a review of results reached by the Department of Justice (DOJ) under previous administrations. He said previous studies of the matter found that Washington statehood would need a constitutional bill, adding that he views the 23rd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as the main obstacle.
“Every legal scholar has told us that, so why not do it the right way and let the people vote to see if they want to change?” Manchin said, referring to a legal amendment.
While Manchin did not explicitly cite the cancellation of the 23rd Amendment in the interview, H.R. 51 provides for expedited thought of a joint resolution that would repeal the 23rd Amendment, which gave D.C. three Electoral College votes in presidential elections.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), a former tenured professor of constitutional law who has long backed Washington statehood, stated on Friday, emphasizing that making Washington into the 51st state would not want a repeal of the 23rd Amendment.
“Even though the 23rd Amendment does not need to be repealed before Washington statehood, some scholars have argued that the 23rd Amendment would be nullified under the Washington statehood bill, either because the bill would repeal the enabling statute for the amendment, or because the bill would lead to the unreasonable result of allowing the reduced federal district to participate in the Electoral College,” she said.
Norton added that she assumes Congress would immediately move to cancel the 23rd Amendment to prevent the reduced federal district from participating in the Electoral College.