Norton Prepared for Tough Appropriations Battle to Defend D.C. Home Rule at Press Conference with Mayor Bowser and National Organizations
WASHINGTON, DC – The office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) released her statement in advance of a press conference today on efforts to protect District of Columbia home rule during the fiscal year 2016 appropriations process. In addition to Norton, the speakers are D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser; Josh Horwitz, Executive Director, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence; Dana Singiser, Vice President for Public Policy and Government Affairs, Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Kate Ryan, Policy Representative, NARAL Pro-Choice America; David Stacy, Government Affairs Director, Human Rights Campaign; Malik Burnett, Policy Manager, Drug Policy Alliance; and Kimberly Perry, Executive Director, DC Vote.
In her statement, Norton said: “Today, we issue a warning to Members of the House who oppose the District’s right to democratic local self-government by trying to overturn our local laws: I will force roll call votes on each and every rider targeting D.C. laws. There will be no hiding from those back home for Members who infringe on the democratic rights of our local citizens.”
Norton’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow:
Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton at D.C. Appropriations Riders Press Conference with Mayor Bowser and National Organizations
Good morning and thank you all for coming.
First, I want to thank the national pro-choice and LGBT groups in this coalition for their outstanding work that helped us keep two D.C. anti-discrimination laws from being overturned last week. We are here this morning to begin our efforts to repeat those victories.
As pleased as I am to welcome Mayor Bowser and the national coalition, I regret that this press conference has become an annual kickoff event. At the same time, I am delighted at the results of the work of the national and local organizations that are here today: DC Vote, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Human Rights Campaign, Drug Policy Alliance, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity, National Women's Law Center, National Abortion Federation, Catholics for Choice, DC Cannabis Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union, Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C., the Center for Reproductive Rights, Marijuana Policy Project, and the National Family and Reproductive Health Association.
These national organizations are also congressional targets. By fighting the persistent attacks on the District, they are not only fighting for self-government for our city, but also for millions of their own members and supporters who agree with District residents on the issues. Millions of Americans agree with our city’s positions on the issues we will be defending: gun safety, LGBT rights, workplace protection form reproductive health discrimination, reproductive choice, marijuana reform, and HIV/AIDS prevention. Americans who do not share our views on the issues at least embrace the nation’s founding principle that taxpaying residents should have the right to determine their own local laws and spend their local funds as they wish in our democratic republic.
The coalition’s message to congressional appropriators is clear: should attempts be made to attach anti-democratic riders to the District’s appropriations, consisting of local funds raised by District taxpayers, the coalition will alert the constituents of House and Senate Members that their Member of Congress is undemocratically interfering in the local affairs of the District instead of concentrating on the business of their own constituents.
Over the years, our allies have shown the effectiveness of informing Americans that Members of Congress are stealing time from their own local and national business to interfere with another Member’s local government’s affairs. Our national coalition helped us to remove all the anti-home-rule riders from the annual D.C. appropriations bill in the 111th Congress and to keep all, except one, the local abortion funding rider, from returning. Since then, instead of fighting to remove appropriation riders each year, our coalition of more than 100 organizations has waged a successful preemptive battle to keep anti-democratic riders from returning or being attached in the first place.
However, the playing field has shifted, because today we have a historically hostile all-Republican House and Senate for the first time in seven years. We expect the strongest attack ever on the District and its local laws during this appropriations process. We will need all the help we can get from our coalition of allies.
The attacks on the District have already been numerous and far-reaching.
We have just kept two D.C. anti-discrimination laws from being overturned by Congress through disapproval resolutions, and both laws took effect this past Saturday, May 2. Today, D.C. employers can no longer discriminate based on employees’ private reproductive health decisions, and LGBT students in the District have equal access to school facilities and services. We thank our reproductive choice and our LGBT organizations for their important assistance in that effort.
We kept the anti-discrimination disapproval resolutions, introduced by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), from moving in the Senate, and a bill introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) to wipe out the city’s gun laws has not moved either. However, it is no accident that both Senators introduced their bills just before announcing their presidential bids, marking the first time D.C.’s local laws have become fodder for presidential campaigns. Consequently, both the District’s anti-discrimination laws and its gun laws could be targeted by appropriations riders.
We have had continued success in keeping the deadly syringe exchange rider from being reimposed, and we prevented our marijuana reform law from being blocked after we found a loophole, but those laws, too, are at risk during the appropriations process.
Congressional attacks have been most persistent against the District’s low-income women, who are deprived of the right to an abortion funded by the District’s local funds, the only remaining prohibition on our appropriations bill. This Congress, Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) introduced the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which would make the abortion funding rider permanent, and is an even worse version than in years past. The bill passed the House, but has not been taken up in the Senate.
Today, we issue a warning to Members of the House who oppose the District’s right to democratic local self-government by trying to overturn our local laws: I will force roll call votes on each and every rider targeting D.C. laws. There will be no hiding from those back home for Members who infringe on the democratic rights of our local citizens.
We are enormously grateful that the District is not alone in this fight. Leader Nancy Pelosi, Whip Steny Hoyer, and House Democrats have been incredibly united and outspoken on the District’s behalf. What we need most now are the efforts of the tireless, dedicated, and united coalition of local and national organizations that has joined us in our struggle for our rights as a local jurisdiction to pass laws of our own choosing without interference from Members of the House and Senate, who are unaccountable through the democratic process to the residents of the District of Columbia.