DC Statehood: What would it take?

Maddy Crisera

Depending on how the Senate votes on H.R. 51, Washington D.C. could become the 51st state in the Union. But what is the actual process of becoming a state?

In general, the process is essentially the same as passing a bill. A legislator must introduce an “enabling act” to Congress that must be passed by both the House and the Senate and then signed by the President.

The case of Washington D.C. is a bit more complicated since certain government buildings such as the White House, Capitol, and Supreme Court are Constitutionally required to be located in a district – not a state.

To remedy this, H.R. 51 splits D.C. into two sections. A new district that contains only the two square miles of land around government buildings would be created, and the rest of D.C. would be made into a new state called Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.

An alternative path for D.C. is a constitutional amendment that would grant the district all the rights of a state while keeping its status as a district. This method was attempted in 1970, where it successfully made it through Congress but was not able to achieve ratification in the states.