Norton Delivers Opening Remarks at Senate Hearing on D.C. Statehood Bill WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) delivered opening remarks at today’s Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC) hearing on
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) delivered opening remarks at today’s Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC) hearing on the District of Columbia statehood bill, the second Senate hearing on the bill in history. In her remarks, Norton thanked HSGAC Chairman Gary Peters (D-MI) for holding the hearing and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), the sponsor of the Senate D.C. statehood bill, for his leadership.
“This Senate hearing shows the momentum continues to build for our D.C. statehood bill,” Norton said. “D.C. statehood now has 54% support nationwide, according to a recent detailed poll, and I expect that support to grow even more after the Senate hearing, as it has after the House hearings. As only the second Senate hearing ever on the D.C. statehood bill, today is historic. Thank you to Chairman Peters for scheduling this hearing and to Senator Carper for his strong and fruitful leadership on the D.C. statehood bill.”
Norton’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow.
Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton
Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Hearing on “The 51st State: Examining D.C. Statehood”
June 22, 2021
Chairman Peters, on behalf of the nearly 700,000 District of Columbia residents, including 30,000 veterans, I thank you for holding today’s hearing and for being an original cosponsor of the District of Columbia statehood bill. This hearing is only the second Senate hearing on our D.C. statehood bill in the nation’s history.
In the last year, the House of Representatives has twice passed the D.C. statehood bill. In 1993, I got the first-ever House floor vote on the D.C. statehood bill, but the bill failed because the House had a very different composition then. Prior to last year, neither chamber of Congress had ever passed the D.C. statehood bill in the nation’s history.
Senator Carper, I particularly thank you for sponsoring the D.C. statehood bill and for being a champion for D.C. in the Senate. Following in the footsteps of Senator Joe Lieberman, under your leadership, the D.C. statehood bill has 45 Senate cosponsors, which is the greatest number of Senate cosponsors of the bill in the nation’s history.
President Biden strongly supports the D.C. statehood bill and is the first president to put the full weight of the presidency behind the bill in the nation’s history.
Fifty-four percent of the American people support D.C. statehood, according to a detailed recent poll. This is the greatest support for D.C. statehood in the nation’s history.
Congress has both the moral obligation and the constitutional authority to pass the D.C. statehood bill. This country was founded on the principles of no taxation without representation and consent of the governed, but D.C. residents are taxed without representation and cannot consent to the laws under which they, as American citizens, must live.
The State of Washington, D.C. would consist of 66 of the 68 square miles of the present-day federal district. The federal district would be two square miles and Congress would retain control over it, as required by the Constitution.
The D.C. statehood bill clearly complies with the Constitution, including the Admissions Clause, the District Clause and the 23rd Amendment. Those who believe the bill is constitutional need only rely on the plain text of the Constitution. A group of distinguished constitutional law professors and scholars from America’s top law schools have sent a definitive analysis of the bill’s constitutionality to House and Senate leadership.
The Admissions Clause gives Congress the authority to admit new states. All 37 new states were admitted by Congress by majority vote. No state was admitted by constitutional amendment, and no state would have to consent to the admission of the State of Washington, D.C.
The District Clause gives Congress plenary authority over the federal district and establishes a maximum size of the federal district—100 square miles. It does not establish a minimum size or a location of the federal district. Congress reduced the size of the federal district by 30 percent in 1846.
The 23rd Amendment allows the federal district to participate in the Electoral College, but does not establish a minimum size or a location of the federal district. Therefore, the bill complies with the 23rd Amendment. Nevertheless, the bill would repeal the enabling act for the 23rd Amendment and the 23rd Amendment would be repealed quickly.
The Constitution does not establish any prerequisites for new states, but Congress generally has considered three: population and resources, support for statehood and commitment to democracy. The State of Washington, D.C. would meet all three.
D.C.’s population is larger than two states. D.C. pays more federal taxes per capita than any state and pays more federal taxes than 21 states. D.C.’s gross domestic product is larger than 17 states. In 2016, 86 percent of D.C. residents voted for statehood. D.C. residents have been petitioning for voting representation in Congress and local autonomy for all of its 220 years of existence.
Congress has a choice. It can continue to exclude D.C. residents from the democratic process, forcing them to watch from the sidelines as Congress votes on federal and D.C. laws, and to treat them, in the words of Frederick Douglass, as “aliens, not citizens, but subjects.” Or it can live up to our nation’s founding principles and pass the D.C. statehood bill.
Again, Chairman Peters and Senator Carper, thank you for your leadership on this bill. I look forward to continuing to work with you and your colleagues to enact the D.C. statehood bill this Congress.