Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

D.C. Statehood

Norton got the only House vote on statehood, in 1993, not long after being elected to Congress.  Almost two-thirds of the Democrats and one Republican voted for the bill, giving it a strong start, but the Democrats lost the House 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, had it not been derailed by a National Rifle Association-backed amendment that would have wiped out D.C.’s gun safety laws.

On Monday, September 22, 2014, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on the D.C. statehood bill, the New Columbia Admission Act (H.R. 292/S. 132), sponsored by Norton and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), the chairman of the committee. Prior to the historic hearing, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) and a leading Republican constitutional scholar and practitioner, Viet Dinh, concluded that a challenge to the constitutionality of the District of Columbia statehood bill may be outside the courts’ purview, and that, in any case, there is likely a constitutional basis for the D.C. statehood bill.  CRS is the non-partisan legislative branch agency that provides legal and policy analysis to Congress, and Dinh is a former U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy in the George W. Bush administration and a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University Law Center. 

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), who as Senate Majority Leader rarely cosponsors bills, made an enthusiastic public announcement of his cosponsorship of the statehood bill at the unveiling of D.C.’s Frederick Douglass statue in the Capitol in June 2013.  The other top three Democratic Senate leaders, Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA), are also cosponsors of the New Columbia Admission Act.  In July 2014, President Obama announced his support for D.C. statehood at a My Brother’s Keeper event. The President has long been on record in support of three primary elements of statehood, budget autonomy and legislative autonomy, which are in his Fiscal Year 2015 budget; and, voting rights.  Residents were elated when the President rode across town at his second inauguration in a presidential limousine with the iconic ‘Taxation without Representation’ D.C. license plate.