D.C. congresswoman takes another shot at statehood bill

by Brianna Gurciullo

D.C. councilmember Michael Brown discusses intensifying the campaign for D.C. statehood in November 2011. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton reintroduced a bill that would grant the District statehood last week.
Media Credit: Hatchet file photo
D.C. councilmember Michael Brown discusses intensifying the campaign for D.C. statehood in November 2011. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton reintroduced a bill that would grant the District statehood last week.

D.C.’s lone representative is mounting another campaign for statehood, one that has vast support from constituents but is likely doomed to die in Congress.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., who submits a statehood bill every other year, has yet to see one of her attempts gain much traction. To become a law, her proposal would need to sway or overcome Republicans, who argue that the nation’s founders intended the District to be isolated from the states and hope to avoid the likely addition of a Democratic representative and two senators if the District gained statehood.

“The residents of our nation’s capital are and always have been citizens of the United States,” Norton said in a statement to the House. “Yet they are the only taxpaying Americans who are not treated as full and equal citizens.”

Norton, who does not have a vote outside of committees, put forward the bill with support from 15 other Democrats, including fellow non-voting delegates from Guam, the Virgin Islands and the American Samoa and representatives from nine states.

Her latest attempt comes after a citywide coalition, including Mayor Vincent Gray, Norton and members of the D.C. Council, galvanized residents last November through its nationwide campaign for statehood.

Gray and Norton have fused their limited political clout to advocate for D.C. budget autonomy and voting rights in Congress.

“The mayor welcomes Congresswoman Norton’s proposal for a bill,” Doxie McCoy, a spokeswoman from Gray’s office, said. “We are hopeful. We have to be realistic, but we remain hopeful. We know we have to continue the battle.”

This spring, District voters will have the chance to weigh in on whether D.C. mayors can spend tax dollars without congressional approval. The D.C. Council has authorized a referendum for an April 23 special election.

Norton first introduced the New Columbia Admission Act when she took office in 1991, but the measure failed after almost every Republican and more than 100 Democrats in the House voted against it two years later.

The U.S. Capitol grounds, national monuments and the National Mall would remain under federal jurisdiction, according to a release from Norton’s office. Two senators and one House member would represent New Columbia’s more than 600,000 residents.

The latest victory in the battle for statehood came from D.C. Council member and GW Law School professor Mary Cheh, who persuaded President Barack Obama to display the phrase “Taxation Without Representation” on the presidential limousine license plates starting at the inaugural parade.

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