Norton optimistic about D.C. vote

D.C. may be closer than ever to earning a vote in the House of Representatives, the city’s nonvoting representative told Foggy Bottom residents Tuesday evening.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., speaking at St. Stephen Martyr Church on Pennsylvania Avenue, focused her comments on this week’s congressional hearing and her bill aimed at winning a House vote for D.C. residents.

“We have the votes,” Norton said. “We have a larger majority in the House than last time we put this bill through. In the Senate we have not lost any Republican votes and have gained seven Democrats. However, I’m not saying we will get through unscathed.”

Norton shared an anecdote with the audience about a soldier from the National Guard who spoke at the hearing, which was held Tuesday on Capitol Hill. The soldier had served in Iraq and was descended from several generations of Washingtonians, but remained unrepresented in Congress.

Norton “made a really good point,” said Joy Howell, president of the Foggy Bottom Association. “You can go serve and fight for your country and still not be able to vote.”

Norton then switched gears, holding up the new D.C. quarter – which was officially released earlier this week – featuring jazz legend and D.C. native Duke Ellington.

“This is a week for history because I have in my hand a quarter, a proof of your citizenship,” Norton said. “I am very pleased to have Duke Ellington on the quarter.”

Despite an optimistic start to her speech, Norton went on to discuss the current financial crisis.

“We are facing an unparalleled challenge with this economy,” she said. “Every state in the union is losing jobs. The one thing I’m sure of is that this recession isn’t stopping anytime soon. I would hope that with the tools we have we can shorten this recession that looks to have no end, and I do believe that congress will do what it can to soften the blow.”

After her talk, community members raised several questions about the economy and stimulus package and a number of people expressed concern over a historical elementary school nearby that is slated to be converted into a new development. Although Norton said she was not previously aware of the issue, she offered advice as to how community members might go about having their concerns heard and considered.

In addition, many community members were interested in what they could do to help push the D.C. voting bill through in its final stretch. Norton suggested citizens get involved with D.C. Vote, calling the voting rights group an “extraordinary organization.”

After the meeting, Howell said she appreciated Norton’s visit.

“It was very helpful to hear what is going on at the federal level,” Howell said. “Eleanor Holmes Norton was very nice to come out and speak to us.”

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