For the first time since 1993, the D.C. statehood movement is getting its day in Congress. Experts are scheduled to testify in a hearing today about the New Columbia Admission Act of 2013, which would make “New Columbia” the 51st state. It’s unlikely to go far: Even if the bill makes it to the Senate floor and passes, there’s the Republican-controlled House to contend with. Here’s a look at statehood’s prospects, and those of other means to improve D.C.’s lot.

Budget and legislative autonomy
Let D.C. set its own budget and make its own laws without Congressional oversight.
Kimberly Perry, the president of advocacy group DC Vote, argues that budget and legislation are the “low-hanging fruit” of independence — the first logical steps toward full statehood. Budgetary autonomy is likelier to come first, Perry says, but even that will require some major work to get passed.

Voting rights
Gain some, or full, representation in Congress.
The last serious effort on this front was the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009, which would have given D.C. a seat in the House of Representatives. However, a rider that would have loosened the city’s strict gun laws ultimately scuttled the effort. The Senate has supported voting rights in the past, which Perry says is cause for optimism.

Full statehood
Voting rights AND legislative and budget autonomy.
This is the Holy Grail for many activists, who note that D.C. has a bigger population than two states (Wyoming and Vermont), but opponents raise both constitutional and practical concerns. So it isn’t likely any time soon, and probably not without some major concession to make up for the fact that D.C. is about as blue as they come.

Give D.C. back to Maryland, except for land on which the White House, U.S. Capitol and other key buildings stand.
This could be a more feasible approach, because it wouldn’t require Congress to recognize a new majority-Democratic state. Others suggest treating D.C. as a part of Maryland in terms of Congressional representation only. But: “Leaders of Maryland and D.C. have been very vocal that there is no interest in a partnership,” Perry says.

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