|Norton Expresses Frustration with Anonymous Senate Hold that Delays Ward 5 Representation Following Thomas Resignation, and Suggests Alternatives for D.C. and Congress|
WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today said that the vacancy on the D.C. Council left by the resignation of Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. highlights the necessity “to get the Congress out of District affairs.” After Norton’s bill to reduce the waiting period from 114 days to 70 days for special elections to fill D.C. Council vacancies passed the House last Congress, a senator placed an anonymous hold on it, stopping the legislation. Norton said it is particularly frustrating that her House-passed bill could possibly have allowed the District to hold a special election for the Ward 5 seat on the regularly scheduled April 3, 2012, primary date instead of likely being forced to hold a separate, costly election in May. Norton is bringing up the bill again this Congress, but said it might be easier to try the alternative procedure of changing the special election period with a Charter amendment by referendum, which, if passed by the Council and District voters, would take effect after a 35-day Congressional layover period.
“This bill was so inconsequential to the House that we got it through committee and the full House by voice vote,” Norton said. “Now Ward 5 is left without representation for almost four months because of a secret Senate hold on a non-controversial local bill. Senators often use holds as part of a bargaining process unrelated to the underlying bill. No reason would be sufficient for holding up this bill, but we particularly resent being a pawn in a Senate game that pointedly excludes us.”
Last Congress, during a House committee markup of the bill, which Norton filed at the request of the Mayor and Council, the then Ranking Member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Darrell Issa (R-CA), indicated that D.C. should not have to come to Congress on such matters. Norton said that Ward 5 residents are now paying a high price for a Senate game where the District has no way to defend itself. In November, Issa, now chairman of the committee, which has jurisdiction over the District, proposed a budget autonomy bill that would allow the District budget to become effective without congressional approval. Norton wants other elements of the Charter to be able to be amended without congressional approval as well. Beginning with this Congress, anonymous holds are no longer permitted in the Senate, which should make it more difficult for a senator to put a hold on this legislation.
Published: January 6, 2011