Norton Welcomes New Members of Congress to D.C., Encourages Them to Support D.C. Statehood and Respect Home Rule
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today released Norton’s biennial letter to new Members of the House and Senate encouraging them to live in the District of Columbia, asking them to respect D.C. home rule while legislating and inviting them to cosponsor her D.C. statehood bill. Norton also offered to help connect the new Members with public and private services and invited them to attend “Ask Me About D.C.,” which Norton sponsors annually with Destination D.C. to acquaint members with the District’s entertainment, sports attractions, tourist sites and other amenities.
In her letter, Norton wrote, “You will need to know a little something about the District as a hometown jurisdiction because, regretfully, some of your time may be spent voting on purely local and justifiably unfamiliar D.C. matters, unrelated to federal affairs. I hope you will cosponsor our D.C. statehood bill to help Congress take D.C. off its agenda entirely…We hope you agree that, despite Congress’ constitutional authority over the District, there is no justification in the 21st century for Congress to legislate on purely local matters anywhere. Restrictions on basic democracy are discredited holdovers from our history, but democratic local self-government is respected by every American and every jurisdiction today.”
Norton’s full letter is below.
A Guide on the District of Columbia for New Members of Congress
Congratulations on your election to the 116th Congress! Your election to the House or Senate means that you will now spend more time in the District of Columbia than in your home district. As the only Member of Congress who represents the host city of the Congress and the federal government, I write to offer a special welcome and my assistance. We want you to have important information about the District you will need and about this city’s unique relationship to the federal government because legislation affecting the District may come before Congress.
District Neighborhoods and Housing
The District is a growing, lovely, livable and hospitable city of more than 700,000 Americans with world-class dining, entertainment and sports, many forms of public transportation and breathtaking national and local monuments and sites that your constituents will ask you about and want to enjoy. We invite you to consider living in D.C., like many Members who have decided to live here rather than fight the formidable traffic to the suburbs. D.C. has it all – private homes, condos and apartments located in sophisticated urban communities, suburban-like neighborhoods, mixed-use developments, a vibrant downtown and nearby communities, such as Capitol Hill (where I live). If you are considering living in the District, feel free to contact me personally or our office if you could use some advice or guidance. I am a third-generation Washingtonian, but more importantly, I can put you in touch with the experts and assistance that you may need on housing.
Help with Public and Private Services in D.C.
Whether or not you live in the District, you may encounter an occasional issue or have questions about the city’s public and private sectors, including for yourself, your family or your constituents. Many of your constituents will come to Washington to visit and consult with you. The District is one of the world’s foremost tourist destinations. You will shortly receive an invitation to “Ask Me About DC,” a live exhibition featuring representatives from the District’s many sports, entertainment and other amenities, who will answer the questions of Members and staff about everything in the city. A light lunch will be offered.
However, if you have a question related to District services, please be in touch with me or my office. For example, transportation, trash, recycling, water, pothole and similar issues inevitably arise in every jurisdiction. My office has had Members inquire concerning every kind of service, even a Member who needed a marriage license (we loved that). Rather than trying to figure out where to turn to in the District or District government, please call me or my office first. If you have a service need or problem, call me personally at 202-225-8050 or have your staff call my Chief of Staff, Raven Reeder, at 202-225-8050. We will either pursue the matter on your behalf or put you in direct contact with a specific individual in the appropriate District agency who will be helpful until the matter is resolved. If for any reason a problem is not completely resolved, we will continue to help until it is.
By federal statute, Members of Congress may park their vehicles at any available curb space in the District when the vehicle is used by the Member on official business and the vehicle is displaying the Member’s congressional tag. The vehicle is exempt from tickets by statute if it is not parked in violation of a loading zone, rush hour, firehouse or fire hydrant limitation.
The Only Local Jurisdiction on the Congressional Agenda
You will need to know a little something about the District as a hometown jurisdiction because, regretfully, some of your time may be spent voting on purely local and justifiably unfamiliar D.C. matters, unrelated to federal affairs. I hope you will cosponsor our D.C. statehood bill to help Congress take D.C. off its agenda entirely. Under the D.C. Home Rule Act of 1973, Congress created a locally elected chief executive (Mayor Muriel Bowser) and legislature (Council), and gave the District government state-like powers, with limited exceptions. We hope you agree that, despite Congress’ constitutional authority over the District, there is no justification in the 21st century for Congress to legislate on purely local matters anywhere. Restrictions on basic democracy are discredited holdovers from our history, but democratic local self-government is respected by every American and every jurisdiction today. Polls show that Americans of every background believe D.C. residents should have equal representation and treatment in Congress. As you can imagine, although occasionally District matters may come to the floor or committee, D.C. residents, like your own constituents, feel strongly that local decisions must be respected, and residents object strongly to interference from Congress, which is unaccountable to residents, in local D.C. laws and spending.
Like every large city, the District has more poverty and crime than suburban communities, but it is a prosperous city dominated by a diverse, majority middle class. Analysts, congressional leaders and residents alike agree that the District has had great success in attracting residents and businesses. The District government has been well managed for years and has one of the largest budget surpluses of any U.S. jurisdiction. You will find the residents of the District to be dedicated and accomplished Americans.
Taxation Without Representation
D.C. residents pay the highest federal taxes per capita in the United States. They are the only U.S. citizens who pay full federal taxes but do not have full representation in the House and none in the Senate. I have virtually all the rights and privileges of a Member of the House, including a vote in committee, where I will have a chairmanship next Congress. I also expect to have a vote on the House floor in the Committee of the Whole but not on final passage of legislation until the pending statehood bill is passed.
The House and Senate passed the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act in 2007 and 2009, respectively, which would have permitted the Americans who live in the nation’s capital to have voting representation in the House and added an additional seat in the House for Utah. That bill passed with bipartisan support, but fell victim to an unrelated amendment. Senator Thomas Carper and I have since introduced bills in the Senate and House to make D.C. a state, which I hope you will cosponsor. Both bills had record numbers of cosponsors in the 115th Congress.
The District is one of the world’s most beautiful and pleasant cities. Cabinet members, agency heads and officials, many Members of Congress, and major news media figures live in our neighborhoods with local citizens, and if you have not decided on a permanent congressional residence, we would welcome you to live in the nation’s capital. However, whether living in the District or only doing your most important work here, you will find D.C. officials, residents and businesses ready to help you enjoy the city, and my office and I are at your disposal.
I look forward to meeting you and working with you in the 116th Congress.
Eleanor Holmes Norton