“The whole deal is an extraordinarily convoluted effort to get around the fact” that the District of Columbia “was never contemplated to be the source of a future state,” he said.
The deliberations are playing out against the backdrop of growing — yet incomplete — support in the Democratic Party for statehood. Advocates are trying to shore up that support to lay groundwork for someday passing the bill if conditions change.
“I am actively engaging with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to make the case for D.C. statehood because this is not a partisan issue, but an issue of basic fairness and equal representation for all citizens,” said Senator Thomas R. Carper, a Delaware Democrat who has picked up the mantle for the cause in the Senate.
A chief obstacle is the Senate filibuster rule; the votes of 10 Republicans and all 50 Democrats would be needed to overcome it. Even as the bill has a record number of Democratic co-sponsors, including Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire this week, four lawmakers have not signed on, according to Mr. Carper’s office. Those four include Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who sits on the evenly divided committee responsible for processing the legislation.
Another, Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, recently told a radio show that he believed a constitutional amendment was needed to admit the District of Columbia as a state. He cited the history of debate over ways to give full representation to its residents, including comments by some prominent Democratic legal officials in the 1960s and 1970s.
Other Democrats, however, have pointed out that the context of those historical comments centered on proposals that were different than this era’s idea.
On the day of Mr. Manchin’s remarks, the district’s nonvoting representative and the chief sponsor of the bill in the House, Eleanor Holmes Norton, a delegate, issued a statement that sought to rebut the idea that amending the Constitution was necessary. As part of that argument, she raised the alternative approach that the Biden team has been privately urging.