|Norton's First Three Bills Challenge Congress to Give D.C. Full Citizenship Rights|
Norton's First Three Bills Challenge Congress to Give D.C. Full Citizenship Rights
January 12, 2011
WASHINGTON, DC -- Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today introduced three bills providing different approaches to congressional representation and full democracy for the more than 600,000 citizens of the District of Columbia who pay income and other taxes to support the federal government, but have no full voting representation in Congress. The three bills, the New Columbia Admission Act (providing for statehood), the District of Columbia Equal Representation Act (authorizing Senate and House seats), and the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act (giving the city a House vote), have all had majority support in the city in the past and emerged from Norton's Community Conversations, held in all eight wards, as approaches residents continue to support.
The elimination of the city's vote in the Committee of the Whole last week by the new Republican majority, despite approval of the city's vote by the federal courts, demonstrates that consideration of any of these bills will not occur at this time. However, Norton said in her statement of introduction that these bills, all embraced by residents during different periods in the past, "lay down a marker of our determination to never relent or retreat until we have obtained each and every right to which we are entitled, whether through the frustration and anguish of the incrementalism that Congress has always forced upon us or with the full and complete set of rights, which, would be achieved through statehood."
In the Community Conversations, residents who embraced each of these bills in the past, depending on which seemed timely and possible, continued to support these approaches. The New Columbia Admissions Act, to make the District the 51st state, New Columbia, got significant support in the House in 1993 in the only vote held by either house on statehood. However, after the city asked the federal government to take over the cost of some state functions and Republicans took control of the House, Norton moved on to introduce a bill to give the city equal voting representation in the House and Senate, introduced today as the District of Columbia Equal Representation Act. With continuing Republican control, she joined with then Representative Tom Davis (R-VA) to introduce the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act. This bill for a vote in the House had large majorities in the House and Senate, and likely would be law now except for a dangerous gun amendment that delayed its passage.
Norton said that she was introducing these three bills at the same time to deliver a direct message to Congress of no retreat and to help continue the momentum achieved here and throughout the country during the past few years, when the D.C. House Voting Rights Act came close to passage. Norton said in her introductory statement, "We accept no imposed limit on our equal rights as American citizens, and we will pursue them all until the day when there is no difference in citizenship between the residents of the District of Columbia and other American citizens."
Norton's full statement introducing the bills follows.
Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton on the Introduction of the New Columbia Admission Act, the District of Columbia Equal Representation Act and the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act
January 12, 2011
Ms. Norton. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce three bills that provide different approaches for obtaining congressional representation and full democracy for the more than 600,000 American citizens who reside in the nation's capital and pay the full array of federal taxes that support the government of the United States, but have no voting representation in Congress. These bills are the New Columbia Admission Act, the District of Columbia Equal Representation Act (formerly titled the No Taxation Without Representation Act) and the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act. These are the first bills of our Free and Equal D.C. series -- bills that address the missing rights to self-government and democracy that other American citizens enjoy -- to be introduced in the coming weeks. I have introduced all three of these bills during different periods in the past. I introduce them today after listening to residents at the many Community Conversations I have held in each ward of the District since a dangerous gun amendment -- which would have eliminated all of the District's gun laws and would have done much more -- forced delay of the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act in April 2010.
These Community Conversations, as well as other constituent meetings and correspondence, have indicated that these three bills have significant support among D.C. residents. I introduce them today, a week after the new House majority eliminated the District's vote in the Committee of the Whole, despite a finding by the federal courts that this vote is constitutional. Recognizing that the House would not consider any approach to representation and full democracy for D.C. residents at this time, I am introducing bills that each had majority support in the District among residents during the years that each was under consideration. D.C. residents, in their quest for full democracy, have always embraced the approach that appeared most timely and possible. Because we are blocked from pursuing any approach at this time, I am introducing the bills that residents have indicated would have their continued support. These bills send a direct message to Congress that residents are undeterred in the pursuit of our rights, and the bills also will help ensure no weakening in the momentum residents have built here and throughout the country over the past several years for full democracy. However, I have not included a bill to fully or partially retrocede the District of Columbia to the State of Maryland, ideas that also have been mentioned for many years. Few District residents have indicated support for retrocession approaches, and, in our experience, even fewer Maryland public officials and residents support them. It is inconsistent with the District's pursuit of self-determination to impose upon another jurisdiction without consent from that jurisdiction.
D.C. residents are entitled to nothing less than full and equal citizenship, which can only be achieved through statehood. Accordingly, the first bill I introduced when I came to Congress in 1991, the New Columbia Admission Act, would have made the District of Columbia the 51st state, the State of New Columbia. The New Columbia Admission Act would create a state from essentially the eight home-town wards of the District. However, the state would have no jurisdiction over the federal territory in the District of Columbia, consisting of most of the Washington that Members of Congress and visitors associate with Washington, D.C., the capital of our country. The U.S. Capitol premises, the principal federal monuments, federal buildings and grounds, the National Mall and other federal property here would remain under federal jurisdiction, as elsewhere. Our bill provides that the State of New Columbia would be equal to the other fifty states in all respects, in that the residents of New Columbia would have all the rights of citizenship they are entitled to as taxpaying American citizens. New Columbia would have two senators and, initially, one House member.
The New Columbia Admission Act has received significant support in the House in the past. In 1993, we got the first vote on statehood for the District of Columbia, with nearly 60% of Democrats and one Republican voting for the New Columbia Admission Act. The Senate held a hearing on its companion bill, introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy, but declined to hold a markup in committee or to consider it on the floor. Soon thereafter, the District, which is the only U.S. city that pays for state functions, found it necessary to ask the federal government to take over the cost of some state functions, posing fiscal barriers to entry into the Union on an equal basis, and the Democrats lost control of the House. This temporary setback led me to introduce the second best option then available, a bill for Senate and House representation for D.C.
Today, I also introduce the District of Columbia Equal Representation Act, which would give the District of Columbia two senators and, initially, one House member. With statehood delayed, Senator Joseph Lieberman and I introduced this bill for several years as the No Taxation Without Representation Act. The House, which was controlled by Republicans, did not act on the bill. The Senate held hearings and marked up the bill in 2002, but did not bring it to the floor.
Today, I also introduce the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act, a bill for one House member, initially, for D.C. residents. In 2005, when I continued to be in the minority, then-Representative Tom Davis and I partnered on a bipartisan bill, the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act, giving House votes to Democratic D.C. and Republican Utah. The D.C. House Voting Rights Act marked the first time in decades that we achieved large House and Senate majorities for voting rights for D.C. residents, and brought the city closer than we have ever come to voting representation in more than two centuries. This bill likely would be law today had the gun lobby not insisted on adding an amendment that would not only have eliminated the District's gun laws, but also would have added measures making the nation's capital a virtually gun law-free jurisdiction.
In introducing these bills, we lay down a marker of our determination to never relent or retreat until we have obtained each and every right to which we are entitled, whether through the frustration and anguish of the incrementalism that Congress has always forced upon us or with the full and complete set of rights, which would be achieved through statehood. We will be watchful to both make and seize every opportunity to pursue our rights, regardless of who controls Congress. We accept no imposed limit on our equal rights as American citizens, and we will pursue them all until the day when there is no difference in citizenship between residents of the District of Columbia and other American citizens.