Norton Introduces D.C. Statehood Bill, Sets Record for Original Cosponsors
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Building on the unprecedented hearing in the Senate last Congress, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), today introduced her bill to make the District of Columbia the 51st state, with a record number of original cosponsors. Last Congress was history-making for the District’s efforts to achieve statehood. Norton’s statehood bill had a record number of cosponsors in both the House and the Senate, including the top four Senate Democratic Leaders, among them then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Last September, the Senate held its first-ever hearing and the first congressional hearing on D.C. statehood in over 20 years. In July, President Obama announced his support for D.C. statehood.
“Although residents recognize that today’s far-right Republican House and Senate will not move a District statehood bill, our citizens have shown that they will not reduce their activism for statehood,” said Norton. “The introduction of the New Columbia Admission Act is an important signal that this is the moment for building a strong statehood movement in the city and nationwide, in addition to the continuing work in Congress.”
Norton got the only House vote on D.C. statehood in 1993. Almost 60% of Democrats and one Republican voted for the bill, giving D.C. statehood a strong start; however, Democrats lost the majority in the next Congress. Since that vote, Norton was able to get the D.C. House Voting Rights Act through the House in 2007 and the Senate in 2009, which would have given D.C. a voting House member. That bill was derailed by an amendment that would have wiped out D.C.’s gun safety laws. Since then, the energy of residents, who gave strong support to the efforts in 2007 and 2009, has been focused on statehood and budget autonomy.
Norton’s full introductory statement follows:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce the New Columbia Admission Act with 93 original cosponsors, a record number. I am introducing the District of Columbia statehood bill as my first bill for the 114th Congress, an indication of its importance to the residents of the District of Columbia. This bill got its first-ever Senate hearing last Congress, ensuring that statehood is on the congressional agenda. Residents were so encouraged by the prospect of the first Senate hearing on our bill that more D.C. residents attended than had come to any D.C. hearing in memory. Their enthusiasm reflects that residents of our nation’s capital have always been citizens of the United States but remain the only taxpaying Americans who do not have full and equal citizenship rights. The denial of local control of local matters and of equal representation in the Congress of the United States can be remedied only by statehood.
“Therefore, I am introducing the New Columbia Admission Act to create a state from essentially the eight home-town wards of the District of Columbia. This 51st state, of course, would have no jurisdiction over the federal territory or enclave that now consists of the Washington that Members of Congress and visitors associate with 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. Our bill provides that the State of New Columbia would be equal to the other fifty states in all respects, as is always required, and the residents of New Columbia would have all the rights of citizenship as taxpaying American citizens, including two senators and, initially, one House member. The District of Columbia recognizes that it can enter the Union only on an equal basis and is prepared to do so.
“The New Columbia Admission Act was the first bill I introduced after I was first sworn in as a Member of Congress in the 102nd Congress in 1991. Our first try for statehood received significant support in the House. In 1993, we got the first and only vote on statehood for the District, with nearly 60% of Democrats and one Republican voting for the New Columbia Admission Act. The Senate held a hearing on various approaches to representation, but the committee of jurisdiction did not proceed further. In the 113th Congress, our statehood bill got unprecedented momentum with the Senate’s first-ever hearing on statehood, which was the first congressional hearing held on statehood in more than 20 years, since the House held its hearing on statehood in 1993, and obtained a record number of cosponsors in the House and Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as well as the other top three Democratic leaders in the Senate. In addition, President Obama endorsed D.C. statehood in a public forum before the statehood hearing was held.
“Statehood is the only alternative for the citizens of the District of Columbia. To be content with less than statehood is to concede the equality of citizenship that is the birthright of our residents as citizens of the United States. That is a concession no American citizen has ever made, and one D.C. residents will not make as they approach the 214th year in their fight for equal treatment in their country. This bill reaffirms our determination to obtain each and every right enjoyed by citizens of the United States, by becoming the 51st State in the Union.”