Norton, Bowser, and Home-Rule Coalition Stake Out Defense of D.C. Laws In Face of Record Number of Attacks and Threats in Appropriations Process
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) released Norton’s prepared remarks in advance of a press conference today with District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser and a national coalition working to protect local D.C. laws from being blocked or overturned by a record number of riders and threats of interference during the fiscal year 2018 appropriations process.
In her remarks, Norton said, “Despite an all-Republican Congress during the past three years, we have successfully worked with our partners to beat back repeated and relentless attempts to overturn many of the District’s purely local laws. Last Congress, we defeated 26 attempts to block or overturn D.C. laws…The District is continuously used as political fodder for controversial national issues, such as gun safety, or as a launching pad for outside groups to wage attacks on issues, such as medical aid in dying, that quickly turn national...We are here to say, without reservation, that we will not stand for anti-home-rule intrusions into our local affairs.”
In addition to Norton, the speakers will be D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser; Kate Ryan, Senior Policy Representative, NARAL Pro-Choice America; Kimberly Callinan, Chief Program Officer, Compassion and Choices; Kate Bell, Legislative Counsel, Marijuana Policy Project; Cynthia A. Finley, Director of Regulatory Affairs, National Association of Clean Water Agencies; T Christian Heyne, Legislative Director, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence; and Bo Shuff, Executive Director, DC Vote.
Other organizations in the coalition attending today’s press conference include: the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, DCMJ, DC Water, Death with Dignity National Center, Guttmacher Institute, National Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Water Environment Federation.
Norton’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow:
Thank all of you for joining us at the Capitol, where we come annually to say to Congress that we will keep coming until Congress ceases interfering with the local laws of the District of Columbia or grants D.C. statehood, whichever comes first.
I thank and I am pleased to welcome Mayor Bowser and speakers representing our local and national coalition of organizations who have come to the defense of the home-rule rights of the District of Columbia. Our partners in this fight who are in attendance today are: the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Compassion and Choices, DCMJ, DC Vote, DC Water, Death with Dignity National Center, Guttmacher Institute, Marijuana Policy Project, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Association of Clean Water Agencies, National Women’s Law Center, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Water Environment Federation.
Despite an all-Republican Congress during the past three years, we have successfully worked with our partners to beat back repeated and relentless attempts to overturn many of the District’s purely local laws. Last Congress, we defeated 26 attempts to block or overturn D.C. laws. We need our coalition to continue to meet these vigorous attacks. The District is continuously used as political fodder for controversial national issues, such as gun safety, or as a launching pad for outside groups to wage attacks on issues, such as medical aid in dying, that quickly turn national. With the appropriations process already begun and the House’s D.C. appropriations bill on its way to the full committee, we are here to say, without reservation, that we will not stand for anti-home-rule intrusions into our local affairs.
This year, we are faced with a record number of threats or attacks on D.C. laws on an extraordinary range of issues. Three have been given a head start in the House’s fiscal year 2018 D.C. appropriations bill, which has passed out of subcommittee: prohibitions that keep D.C. from spending its local funds on abortions for low-income women and on marijuana commercialization. The bill also repeals the District’s budget autonomy referendum, which we were able to protect from being overturned last Congress despite repeated attempts by House Republicans. We already know those three riders must be removed. We cannot afford to believe, though, that those three are it. There will be other opportunities to add riders, and, judging by the threats we have already received and have met in the past, we must be prepared.
Early this Congress, bills were introduced in the House and Senate to eliminate almost all of D.C.’s local gun safety laws, including its ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines and its registration requirements, as well as to prohibit D.C. from passing any gun laws in the future. The day after the tragic shooting of Members of Congress, including Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and his Capitol Police security detail, Representative Thomas Massie (R-KY) shamelessly exploited the incident to introduce a bill to force D.C. to recognize out-of-state permits to carry concealed guns, regardless of the standards those states use for issuing these permits.
Attacks on D.C.’s gun laws and anti-discrimination laws have become a ritual, but new riders have been threatened: attacks on the city’s new medical aid-in-dying law and on its new law regulating the labeling of wet wipes sold in the District. Members have publically said they are considering blocking D.C.’s Death with Dignity Act and wet wipes law during the appropriations process.
After two disapproval resolutions were introduced to nullify the Death with Dignity Act in the House and Senate earlier this year, we were able to stop consideration in the Senate entirely and to keep the House bill from going to the floor. We believe we have been successful so far because we called out the 24 House Republicans, including two House leaders, who represent states where medical aid in dying is legal, and we have continued during the appropriations process to show the incongruity and hypocrisy of refusing for D.C. what is already legal in these states.
To eliminate the District’s wet wipes law, powerful multinational corporations, led by Kimberly-Clark, are lobbying Members to block the law regulating the labeling of personal hygiene products, particularly wet wipes, as safe to flush. It should be below the dignity of Members to try to block a local wet wipes law. However, lobbying efforts and campaign contributions may produce Members willing to stoop so low as to try to block a D.C. law that seeks to save taxpayers from some of the estimated $500 million–$1 billion nationwide annual cost of clearing sewers and pipes of these wipes.
We are also mindful that last Congress, Republicans waged repeated attacks on two D.C. anti-discrimination laws: the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA), which prohibits employers in D.C. from discriminating against employees, their spouses or their dependents based on their reproductive health decisions, and the Human Rights Amendment Act (HRAA), which ensures LGBT students have equal access to school facilities and services. House Republicans passed a disapproval resolution to nullify RHNDA, the first House vote on a disapproval resolution in 25 years, and the House passed an amendment to the fiscal year 2017 D.C. appropriations bill to block D.C. from using its local funds to enforce RHNDA. A rider to repeal HRAA was initially introduced and then withdrawn. We were able to keep these riders out of the fiscal year 2017 omnibus appropriations bill.
You will hear more about the importance of defeating current attacks and threats to D.C.’s local laws. The District is enormously grateful that our residents are not alone in this fight. Along with our home-rule coalition, Democratic leaders and Members in both the House and Senate stand arm-in-arm with us, with Mayor Bowser, with the D.C. Council, and with D.C. residents to defend the city’s right to enact its own local laws, free from interference by unaccountable Members of Congress.