Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) said in an interview Friday that he does not support the Washington, D.C. statehood bill, the first Democratic senator to oppose the House-passed bill.

“If Congress wants to make D.C. a state, it should propose a constitutional amendment,” Manchin said in an interview. “It should propose a constitutional amendment and let the people of America vote.”

Manchin, the key Senate swing vote in the 50-50 Senate, has emerged as one of the most powerful people in Washington since the election.

He argued that D.C. statehood would require a constitutional amendment, citing the 23rd Amendment, which granted D.C. residents the right to vote in presidential elections and gave three electoral votes in the Electoral College, as an obstacle in the way of statehood.

Some have speculated that Manchin, a moderate Democrat, made his move to flex his muscle in Congress.

Following the report, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), argued that Congress could grant D.C. statehood without having to repeal the 23rd Amendment. 

“No new state was admitted by constitutional amendment,” Norton said in a statement. “All 37 new states were admitted by Congress, and there has never been a successful constitutional challenge to the admission of a state.” 

Norton had also said on Friday she had never counted on Manchin for his support, but instead was looking to diminish his influence in Congress.

Without Manchin’s vote, for now, D.C. statehood is unlikely to be approved this term.

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