Norton Releases Her Senate Testimony on D.C. Statehood to Commemorate July 4th

Jul 4, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today released her testimony from last week’s Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee hearing on District of Columbia statehood. The hearing was held three business days after the House passed her D.C. statehood bill, which was the first time either chamber of Congress had passed the D.C. statehood bill since the District was established 219 years ago. 

 

In her testimony Norton said, “Your hearing demonstrates the readiness of Senate Democrats to ensure our statehood bill gets immediate attention.  In a few days, Americans will celebrate Independence Day here where the nation’s oldest slogan, ‘no taxation without representation,’ still applies. This hearing is important because it lays the groundwork for a Senate Democratic majority to pass the D.C statehood bill.” 

 

Norton’s testimony follows. 

Chairwoman Stabenow, thank you for holding this timely and important hearing so soon after last Friday, when the House of Representatives passed H.R. 51 decisively, marking the first time either chamber of Congress had passed the District of Columbia statehood bill.  Your hearing demonstrates the readiness of Senate Democrats to ensure our statehood bill gets immediate attention.  In a few days, Americans will celebrate Independence Day.  However, the nation’s oldest slogan, “no taxation without representation,” and the principle of consent of the governed still do not apply to the Americans living in the nation’s capital.  This hearing is important because it lays the groundwork for a Senate Democratic majority to pass the D.C statehood bill next Congress.  Since D.C. was created 219 years ago, the Senate has never even voted on the D.C. statehood bill.

I also want to thank Senator Tom Carper, the Senate sponsor of and my longtime partner on the D.C. statehood bill for his extraordinary work.  Senator Carper has achieved a record 40 cosponsors of the bill, including the Democratic leadership, and he is adding Senators at an impressive pace.

The United States is the only democratic country that denies both voting rights in the national legislature and local autonomy to the residents of the nation’s capital.  The Senate has both the moral obligation and constitutional authority to end this injustice.

D.C. statehood has both the facts and Constitution on its side.  The Constitution does not establish any prerequisites for new states, but Congress generally has considered three factors in admission decisions: resources and population, support for statehood and commitment to democracy.

D.C. pays more federal taxes per capita than any state and pays more federal taxes than 22 states.  D.C.’s population of 705,000 is larger than those of two states, and the new state would be one of seven states with a population under one million.  D.C.’s $15.5 billion budget is larger than those of 12 states, and D.C.’s triple-A bond rating is higher than those of 35 states.  D.C. has a higher per capita personal income and gross domestic product than any state.  Eighty-six percent of D.C. residents voted for statehood in 2016.  In fact, D.C. residents have been fighting for voting rights in Congress and local autonomy for 219 years.

The Constitution’s Admissions Clause gives Congress the authority to admit new states, and all 37 new states have been admitted by an act of Congress.  The Constitution’s District Clause sets a maximum size of the federal district of 100 square miles.  It does not set a minimum size.  Congress previously has changed the size of the federal district, including reducing it by 30 percent in 1846.

Over the last few months, the world has witnessed the discriminatory and outrageous treatment of D.C. residents by the Republican-controlled Senate and the Trump Administration.  In March, Congress passed the CARES Act, which deprived D.C. of $755 million in coronavirus fiscal relief by treating D.C. as a territory rather than a state.  I have gotten these funds replaced in the House-passed Heroes Act.  Last month, federal police and out-of-state National Guard troops occupied D.C. to respond to largely peaceful protests.  This occupation occurred solely because the President thought he could get away with it here.  He was wrong.

I seek statehood for the Americans I am honored to represent.  At the same time, D.C. statehood is deeply personal for me.  My great-grandfather Richard Holmes, who escaped as a slave from a Virginia plantation, made it as far as D.C., a walk to freedom but not to equal citizenship.  For three generations my family has been denied the rights other Americans take for granted.

The Senate has two choices.  It can continue to exercise undemocratic, autocratic authority over the 705,000 American citizens who reside in our nation’s capital, treating them, in the words of Frederick Douglass, as “aliens, not citizens, but subjects.”  Or the Senate can live up to this nation’s promise and ideals and pass the D.C. statehood bill.

The mission during the remainder of this Congress for D.C. officials, D.C. residents and our millions of allies across the country is clear.  We need to educate the American public about D.C. statehood, and we need to build support for the D.C. statehood bill in the Senate.  Today’s hearing is a great start.

###