It seems the Biden administration supports the recognition of the District of Columbia as another US state. This raises the question of what will it take for this to happen?

Obviously, such a state would add 2 likely-Democratic-party senators, so Democrats would tend to support it and Republicans to oppose. On the other hand, such an addition would deprive the farther-right-wing Democratic-party senators like Manchin and Sinema from some of their leverage in the currently 50/50-split senate - so they (and maybe others?) have some motivation to oppose this, or abstain or be absent.

As for the procedure, is it like passing a law? If that's the case, it would be subject to a filibuster; and there will be the question of whether this can be included in a budget reconciliation procedure or not.

Otherwise, if there's a different procedure - what kind of majorities are necessary? And how long is the procedure (ignoring arbitrary delays)?

Note: A separate question regards possible relevant changes to the constitution regarding this transition.

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    I think the duplicate addresses most of this. A simple joint motion is sufficient (which can be filibustered and can't budget reconciliation). But this would leave several inconsistencies in the constitution (in particular amend 23) so it might be safer to proceed by the the approval of 3/4 of the several states.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 20:15
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    @JamesK: Actually, it seems like Amendment 23 is the lesser issue - from my reading anyway - since the new state will no longer be a non-state district, and thus the amendment will not apply to it. Althoufgh, granted, there is definitely some interpretative ijtihad here.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 20:24
  • @JamesK Fixing the 23rd amendment should be simple to do once it is made a state and you just need congress to vote for a new state.
    – Joe W
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 20:35
  • I don't see how this is a duplicate of that question that is just asking about an amendment to the constitution while this is asking about the process about becoming a state which is different.
    – Joe W
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 20:37
  • @JoeW: Yes, me neither. I mean, sure, there are some constitutional difficulties which the other question is about, but there is also a political challenge for the Biden administration which is what I'm more interested in. That being said - fixing constitutional amendments is not a simple thing to do...
    – einpoklum
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 20:39

1 Answer 1


As Would it take any sort of amendment to make DC a state? states, it is like passing a law. In particular a Joint Resolution of Congress, (which might be filibustered by opponents in the Senate). These typically authorise statehood subject to the approval of a state constitution that is acceptable to Congress by referendum in the district or territory.

It would take extreme political manoeuvring to make this a budget resolution measure. This is certainly not what budget resolution was ever intended to be about.

Laws can get passed pretty quickly, but this one is likely to be controversial, and controversial laws take longer, if they get passed at all. There would need to be a state constitution to approve and probably a referendum, although this isn't strictly needed. Congress can admit new states with a republican form of government by law alone.

Depending on the precise nature of the bill, there may need to be a constitutional amendment. If (for example) the bill makes DC into a state, but convert the immediate area around the Capitol and the White House into a "micro-district", then you would probably want to remove the electoral college members from this micro-district, which would require an amendment (approval by congress and 3/4 of the states ratifying). This might not get much push-back, but would take some time to process.

  • It should be noted that congress passed a DC statehood bill for the second time and now it just needs to get past the filibuster in the senate. cnbc.com/2021/04/22/…
    – Joe W
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 21:00
  • "then you would probably want to remove the electoral college members from this microdistrict" <- Well, they would, but that's not a precondition. Still, how many people live in that hypothetical micro-district?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 21:12
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    If "it needs to get past the filibuster" then it hasn't passed Congress. Congress consists of two houses. (even though "congressperson" is generally taken to mean "representative" and not "senator") Senators are members of Congress, but they are not normally referred to or addressed as "Congresspeople".
    – James K
    Commented Apr 22, 2021 at 21:53
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    When correcting my spelling (Thanks!) take care not to introduce dialect changes. I'm a British English speaker and writer and "manoeuvring" is the correct spelling in my dialect, even in an answer about American politics.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 24, 2021 at 14:27
  • Since states receive federal subsidies, they might be able to finagle that into a justification for using budget reconciliation.
    – Barmar
    Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 19:59

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