West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin III told local reporters on Friday that he would not support a bill granting statehood to Washington, DC, saying he believed a constitutional amendment was necessary instead of legislation.
This is the latest example of Mr Manchin, a critical critical vote, pushing his party to the center on major issues. Among other things, he pushed for a smaller corporate tax hike in President Biden’s infrastructure plan and for more limited unemployment benefits in the $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package.
In a radio interview with Hoppy Kercheval of MetroNews in West Virginia, Mr Manchin said he had taken “a deep dive” into the matter and highlighted the findings of former Attorney General Robert F. Reagan .
“They all came to the same conclusion: if Congress wants to make DC a state, it should come up with a constitutional amendment,” Manchin said. “He should come up with a constitutional amendment and let the American people vote.”
Even with Democrats controlling the Senate 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris’ decisive vote, state legislation already had a grim outlook before Mr Manchin made his decision public. Several Democratic senators have not publicly expressed support for the proposal, and no Republican has spoken out for it, leaving the measure below the support it would need to take out a filibuster.
Mr Manchin has also made it clear that he is opposed to removing or weakening filibuster, the 60-vote threshold needed to end debate in the Senate.
The Democratic-controlled House passed the state measure along party lines last week and Mr Biden has said he supports it.
The legislation would establish a 51st state called Washington, Douglass Commonwealth – in honor of Frederick Douglass, the black leader of emancipation and civil rights – and give the new state one voting representative in the House and two senators to represent its most of 700,000 residents.