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For the first time since he took office, President Barack Obama has come out in favor of making Washington, D.C. the nation's 51st state.
"I’m in D.C., so I’m for it," he said of D.C. statehood during an event in Washington today. "I've been for it for quite some time. I've long believed that folks in D.C. pay taxes like everybody else. They contribute to the overall well-being of the country like everybody else. They should be represented like everybody else."
Since moving into the White House in 2009, Obama has expressed support for congressional representation for D.C. residents and defended the city's right to craft its own laws and spend its own money. Last week, Obama issued a veto threat on a spending bill over Republican efforts to stop the city from implementing a marijuana decriminalization law.
But he has remained quiet on the issue of statehood, and during his first term opted not to use the city's "Taxation Without Representation" license plates on his presidential limo. He was also criticized in 2011 for agreeing to a Republican demand that prohibited D.C. from spending local and federal funds on abortions for low-income women.
Despite saying he supports statehood for D.C., Obama also said that moving the issue forward in Congress would be "difficult." Bills that would grant D.C. statehood were introduced in both the House and Senate last year, though neither has received a hearing. The last time a statehood bill was considered was in 1993.
In the the early 1980s, D.C. residents drafted and approved a constitution for admission to the union as the state of New Columbia. The move, which required an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, was not ratified by the required number of states.
Proponents of D.C. statehood say it is the only way to ensure that the city's 640,000 residents receive the same rights as other Americans, while critics argue that the Constitution created D.C. as a federal enclave to be governed by Congress.
Correction: The 1980s effort cited above was for voting representation in both Houses of Congress, not statehood. A statehood bill would only require a simple majority in both the House and Senate. We regret the error, and thank the reader who pointed it out.
"I’m in DC so I’m for it," says Pres Obama when asked about DC Statehood. "I've been for it for quite some time."— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) July 21, 2014