Joe Biden visited Southeast Washington in January 2015 to undertake a quintessential vice-presidential duty — inspecting a massive public works on the banks of the Anacostia River to tout the White House infrastructure agenda.
But he strayed off topic when Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton joked that his home state of Delaware was “not much bigger than the District of Columbia.”
“You should be a state!” Biden shouted back, later adding: “I’m not making a statement for the administration — I’m making a statement for Joe Biden.”
Six years later, Joe Biden is himself the administration, with a Democratic-majority Congress behind him, and a fast-evolving political landscape has propelled D.C. statehood up the Democratic priority list after it passed the House for the first time last year.
The issue, once a fanciful dream of local activists, now enjoys near-unanimity inside the Democratic Party. Many congressional Democrats mention it in the same company as the party’s other top voting rights priorities, putting it at the center of the internal battle over whether to change Senate rules to allow for major legislation to pass with a simple majority.
The jolt of momentum stems in part from an increasingly urgent desire among Democrats to act while they have power to erode what they see as Republican structural advantages in the nation’s democracy — including the Senate. D.C. statehood would likely result in two additional Democratic senators, shifting the dynamic in a chamber where members from conservative, rural states can wield disproportionate influence over legislation, federal courts and presidential nominations.
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Published for Mugs Malone