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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Friday that he does not support a bill that would make Washington D.C. the nation’s 51st state, dealing a blow to the initiative that Republicans have panned as an unconstitutional power grab.

“If Congress wants to make D.C. a state, it should propose a constitutional amendment. It should propose a constitutional amendment and let the people of America vote,” Manchin told West Virginia’s MetroNews in a Friday morning radio interview.

Last week, the House passed H.R. 51—the Washington D.C. Admission Act—in a vote of 216-208, backing the congressional Democrats’ view of “no taxation without representation.” But Republicans see the legislation as an unconstitutional ploy to add two more Democratic senators.

The bill, which is backed by President Joe Biden, faces daunting odds in the evenly-split Senate, as the legislative filibuster would require buy-in from at least 10 Republican senators, assuming all Democrats vote for it. Manchin’s declaration of opposition to the measure casts a further shadow of doubt on its fate.

Manchin said in the interview that he and his staff had taken a “deep dive” into the bill and its background, including a review of conclusions reached by the Department of Justice (DOJ) under previous administrations. He said prior analyses of the matter found that Washington statehood would require a constitutional amendment, adding that he views the 23rd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as the main obstacle.

“Every legal scholar has told us that, so why not do it the right way and let the people vote to see if they want to change?” Manchin said, referring to a constitutional amendment.

While Manchin did not explicitly mention a repeal of the 23rd Amendment in the interview, H.R. 51 provides for expedited consideration of a joint resolution that would repeal the 23rd Amendment, which gave D.C. three Electoral College votes in presidential elections.

BY TOM OZIMEK

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