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D.C. statehood 'absolutely not' dead on arrival in Senate, says shadow U.S. senator

"We're engaged in serious discussions about whether or not we need to amend rules" to get around a Senate filibuster, said Paul Strauss.

Updated: April 29, 2021 - 11:14pm

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Washington D.C. Shadow U.S. Sen. Paul Strauss told Just the News that the D.C. statehood bill is "absolutely not" dead on arrival in the Senate and that passing it is "politically possible" before the conclusion of the current session of Congress on Jan. 3, 2023.

"We're five votes away from a statistical majority, and we're engaged in serious discussions about whether or not we need to amend rules," said Strauss, referring to the rule change that would be needed to exempt statehood from the 60-vote burden needed to end a Senate filibuster. "I think we need to get those five members on board before we escalate to the level of the rule change, but no, it's absolutely politically possible.

"Look, in the last session, when the House voted on it and that statehood bill was sent to Mitch McConnell's Senate, yeah, I was the first to concede, okay, probably not going to pass. This is a very different ballgame. We have a president that supports it. We have a vice president that supports it. We have a majority of the caucus that supports it. We have the majority leader that supports it, and the American people support it." 

Despite this, Strauss conceded passage of the statehood bill remains an "uphill battle" in this session of Congress.

"It's always been an uphill battle, and I've been at this, as you know, a long time ... so the idea that we're literally five people away from a majority in the Senate, after having passed the House, is pretty significant," Strauss said. "I don't even know that we have to necessarily change minds. I mean, Senator Shaheen is one of the senators who is not yet on the bill but was a cosponsor of a prior version."

In addition to Shaheen, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Mark Kelly of Arizona and Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, are not currently signed on as cosponsors of the statehood bill in the Senate.

"It's just a question of educating them enough to get them to where we need them to be comfortable signing on as official support," Strauss said. "Now, when we get to that point, do we have to have a serious conversation about the filibuster? You betcha. But it's not worth engaging in that discussion yet because we need the 50 senators, plus the vice president, to get us to the magic number 51, which is significant to us in every way — we need 51 people to help us become the 51st state."

All of the cosponsors on the House statehood bill that passed are Democrats, as are all Senate cosponsors of the measure.

Some Republicans have called the D.C. statehood effort a "power grab" by Democrats, given D.C.'s Democratic voting history and party registration advantage. Strauss was asked if he thinks the five Democratic senators who aren't formally supporting the statehood bill are concerned about the optics of a partisan effort to make D.C. a state.

"I'm not going to speak for those five senators that aren't on the bill yet," he said. "We've continued to add senators, we started with a record number of initial cosponsors, we've added new senators at a rate faster than we have [previously]. We're 100 days into this administration's four year term. And so as quick as I'd like to see it happen, and as anxious as I am for it to happen, I don't expect it to happen tonight, tomorrow or even next week. To those senators who say they want to learn more about it, and want to be educated more about it, they have that right."

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