The District of Columbia, where license plates read “Taxation without representation,” has long been burdened by a lack of federal representation.
The capital first earned three electoral votes and the right to vote for president in 1961 with the passage of the 23rd Amendment. The right to elect a nonvoting delegate came a decade later, but lawmakers could not agree on whether to give that delegate the right to vote, and the statehood legislation never survived a floor vote.
The disparity has gained renewed national attention during the coronavirus pandemic and the protests over racial injustice. In the $2.2 trillion stimulus law enacted in March, the District of Columbia received a small fraction of the funds doled out to states to help dull the economic effect of the virus because it was treated as a territory, despite customarily being granted funding as if it were a state.
And when the administration flooded the streets of Washington with National Guard forces from elsewhere and troops in riot gear during protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody, Ms. Bowser had few options this month because of how much control Congress maintains over the District of Columbia’s finances and laws.
“Denying D.C. statehood to over 700,000 residents, the majority of them black and brown, is systemic racism,” said Stasha Rhodes, campaign director of the pro-statehood group 51 for 51. “D.C. statehood is one of the most urgent civil rights and racial justice issues of our time — and we know we are on the right side of history.”
Ms. Bowser, a fifth-generation Washingtonian, told reporters at a news conference on Thursday that she was “born here without a vote, but I swear I will not die here without a vote.”
The House vote, she said, would lay the groundwork for another administration to make statehood law. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has said he would support the move.
Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.