Photo Credit: Djembayz via Wikimedia Commons (CC-By-SA 3.0)

DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa’s Democratic U.S. Reps. Cindy Axne, Abby Finkenauer, and Dave Loebsack voted in favor of giving the District of Columbia statehood on Friday afternoon.

The Washington, D.C. Admission ActH.R. 51, passed in the U.S. House of Representatives by a 232 to 180 party-line vote. U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, voted against the bill.

The U.S. Senate is not expected to consider the bill.

The controversial push for D.C. statehood is to provide residents of the District of Columbia voting representation in Congress, primarily since the District’s population consists of a majority of people of color and a plurality of black residents. According to 2018, Census estimates, 45.5 percent of the District’s population is black, 42.2 percent is white, 5.3 is Hispanic, and 3.9 percent is Asian. 

The U.S. Constitution gave Congress authority over a federal district where the nation’s seat of government. In 1790, Virginia and Maryland ceded land to the federal government to create the District of Columbia which would be the home of the city of Washington, but also included the cities of Georgetown and Alexandria.

In 1847, the land Virginia ceded to the federal government, including Alexandria, was returned to the Commonwealth while the land formerly belonging to Maryland is what remains of the District of Columbia today.

Residents of the District continued to vote for members of Congress in Virginia and Maryland elections until the passage of the Organic Act in 1801 that formally placed the District under the authority of Congress. 

Since 1801, residents of the District have not had elected representation in Congress. The residents of the District of Columbia, like other territories, elect a non-voting delegate to represent the concerns of residents in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

In 1961, the 23rd Amendment was ratified, granting the District of Columbia the ability to send electors to vote for president in the Electoral College. 

Those advocating for statehood argue that the District has more population than the states of Vermont and Wyoming. Arguments against D.C. statehood range from its constitutionality, placing the federal government’s seat in one state, and giving what is essentially just a large city, only the 24th largest in the country, the same representation as states in the U.S. Senate.  

Suggested alternatives to D.C. statehood range from retrocession – returning land ceded from Maryland back to the state while leaving primary federal buildings in a federal capitol zone – or Congress passing a bill to allow District residents to vote for Maryland congressional representation.

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