Norton, Bowser, Mendelson and Oversight Committee Chairwoman Maloney Announce Date for Historic Committee Vote on Norton’s D.C. Statehood Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, and House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) announced today at a press conference that Norton’s bill to make D.C. the 51st state, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51), will be voted on in the Committee at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, February 11. This vote will be the first congressional vote on the D.C. statehood bill since Norton got the first-ever House floor vote in 1993. Once passed by the Committee, H.R. 51 will be ready for a vote on the House floor. Passing bills on the House floor requires 218 votes. Norton’s bill has 224 cosponsors.
Norton says she is particularly grateful to Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney for her support, particularly in granting Norton’s request that the Committee vote occur on February 11, the week of the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Lincoln freed D.C's slaves before issuing the Emancipation Proclamation for all other slaves in the United States. Frederick Douglass was a longtime D.C. resident who fought tirelessly for full and equal rights for D.C. residents.
Norton’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.
“What we announce today is freighted with symbolism. First, today there were two “war votes” in the House of Representatives. The House voted to block funds for war in Iran and voted to repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq, dating back to 2002, that has been used by Democratic and Republican presidents to enter into wars of their choosing. Lacking statehood, no Member of Congress from the District has ever been able to vote on matters of war and peace, even though District residents serve in the military.
“We have chosen to make this important announcement today at the African American Civil War Museum because of its importance to our announcement. I thank my good friend Frank Smith, the founder and director of the African American Civil War Museum, for permitting us to make today’s announcement here. Our remarks will be in memory of the 200,000 African Americans who served in the Civil War – three out of four of whom were slaves. As they escaped slavery, they eagerly joined the war for their own freedom and added to the troops that won the Civil War. The African Americans who served in the Civil War are particularly deserving of the memorial across the street in their honor. When Frank Smith, as a member of the D.C. Council, got legislation through the Council to memorialize the African Americans in the Civil War, I introduced and got legislation passed in Congress to place the memorial commemorating those 200,000 African Americans who served in the Civil War, across the street from this museum.
“I want to especially thank my good friend, the Chair of the Committee that will mark up H.R. 51. I thank Chairwoman Maloney for doing even more than that. I approached her and asked her if the markup and vote could be held on February 11th to continue the symbolism to this historic occasion. We asked for February 11th because both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born in February. Lincoln freed D.C.’s slaves ahead of the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the other slaves in the United States, and that was because of the special jurisdiction of the federal government over the District of Columbia. I suppose that one time when being under federal jurisdiction worked in the District’s favor.
“I am personally grateful for the symbolism connected to the freeing of slaves here in the District. My own great grandfather was a runaway slave from Virginia in the District of Columbia at the time when D.C.’s slaves were emancipated. Of course, he was a runaway slave from Virginia, and Lincoln’s proclamation only freed the slaves who were owned in the District of Columbia. My great grandfather Richard Holmes freed himself.
“February is important to the District for another reason as well. Frederick Douglass was a longtime resident of this city and was the first prominent American to make it his business to again and again argue for full and equal status for the people who lived in the District of Columbia. That is why we have named our state Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.
“Today, I ask that we recall that the Revolutionary War, which resulted in the establishment of the United States of America, had as its war slogan: “No Taxation Without Representation.” What the Framers fought for has been achieved everywhere except in our nation’s capital. We announce today that on February 11th, the House Oversight and Reform Committee will mark up and vote to send to the floor of the House H.R. 51 to give the residents of the District of Columbia equal representation with the states in both houses of Congress, and to ensure that Congress cannot intervene into the affairs of the District, or dictate or change the District’s local laws.
“On September 19th, the House Oversight Committee held the requisite hearing with D.C. government officials and residents. This hearing definitively showed that H.R. 51 is constitutional. The new state, which would contribute more in federal taxes than 22 current states do today, would be fully able to support itself.
“The taxation without representation slogan understates the unique denial of equal rights to the District. Not only do D.C. residents pay federal taxes like other Americans. Our residents pay more in federal taxes than any other Americans; in fact, the highest federal taxes per capita in the United States.
“D.C. residents have served, fought, and died in every one of our country’s wars, including the Revolutionary War, which gave birth to our nation. Right now, nearly 30,000 veterans live in the District after serving to defend their country without the same rights as other members of the military.
“Nor would the new state of Washington, D.C. – Washington, Douglass Commonwealth – be the smallest in population. The new state, with more than 700,000 residents, would have a population greater than that of two states, Vermont and Wyoming, which have always enjoyed equal rights with the largest states.
“I had no sooner gotten to the Congress when I was able to get the District’s first-ever floor vote on statehood. Because during most of my service in the House, Republicans have been in the majority, I have had no clear shot for statehood until now. Today, I am so sure that the House will pass H.R. 51 that I am already working in the Senate with the help of Senators and more than 100 national organizations who have had success in getting difficult bills passed in the Senate. The District will be more than halfway there when the House votes to pass H.R. 51 this year.”