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Public Statements

Introduction of the District of Columbia Equal Representation Act and the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce two bills that provide different approaches for obtaining voting representation for the more than 600,000 American citizens who reside in the nation's capital and pay the full array of federal taxes that support the government of the United States, but have no voting representation in Congress. These bills are the District of Columbia Equal Representation Act and the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act. I have introduced these bills during different periods in the past. I introduce them today after listening to residents at the many Community Conversations I have held in each ward of the District since a dangerous gun amendment--which would have eliminated all of the District's gun safety laws and would have done much more--forced us to decline to move to final passage of the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act in April 2010.

I introduce these bills today, in the same month that the House majority again eliminated the District's vote in the Committee of the Whole, despite rulings by the federal courts that this vote is constitutional. It therefore is clear that the House would not consider any approach to representation and full democracy for D.C. residents at this time. As my first bill of the 113th Congress, I introduced the New Columbia Admission Act, to make the District of Columbia the 51st state, the only option that affords the residents of the District of Columbia equality with other American citizens, and the option we will always seek. However, today, I am reintroducing two bills that residents have indicated would have their continued support on the way to statehood, which they deserve. Residents embraced these approaches because they were possible at the time. Today's bills will help ensure that there is no weakening in the momentum that these bills helped build here and throughout the country over the past several years.

The District of Columbia Equal Representation Act would give the District of Columbia two senators and, initially, one House member. With statehood delayed, then-Senator Joseph Lieberman and I introduced this bill for several years as the No Taxation Without Representation Act. The House, which was controlled by Republicans, did not act on the bill. The Senate held hearings and marked up the bill in 2002, but did not bring it to the floor.

The second bill, the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act, to give D.C., initially, one House member, almost became law. In 2005, when I continued to be in the minority, then-Representative Tom Davis and I partnered on a bipartisan bill giving House votes to Democratic D.C. and Republican Utah. The D.C. House Voting Rights Act marked the first time in decades that we achieved large majority votes in the House and Senate for voting rights for D.C. residents, and brought the city closer than we have ever come to voting representation in more than two centuries. This bill likely would be law today had the gun lobby not insisted on adding an amendment that would not only have eliminated the District's gun safety laws, but also would have added measures making the nation's capital one of the most permissive gun jurisdictions in the country.

In introducing these bills, we lay down a marker of our determination to never relent or retreat until we have obtained each and every right to which we are entitled, whether through the frustration and anguish of the incrementalism that Congress has always forced upon the District or through statehood. We will be watchful to both make and seize every opportunity to pursue our rights, regardless of who controls Congress. We accept no imposed limit on our equal rights as American citizens, and we will pursue them all until the day when there is no difference in citizenship between residents of the District of Columbia and other American citizens.


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