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Norton to Hold Press Conference with Mayor and National Coalition Representatives Whose Members Will Activate Constituents of Appropriations Committee Members to Protect D.C. Home Rule


Location: Washington, DC

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) released her statement at a press conference today with D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan, Center for Reproductive Rights Policy Council for Federal Legislation Julianna Gonen, and DC Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka on efforts to protect D.C. home-rule during the fiscal year 2013 appropriations process.

Norton said that the Republicans in the 112th Congress have staged relentless and unprincipled attacks "to dismantle the District of Columbia's home-rule authority piece by piece" whenever the city's laws are at odds with their own personal or ideological views. Praising the return of the national coalition that made progress last year, she said, "Thanks to our friends and allies, we are neither alone or isolated."

Norton's full statement follows.

Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton at Press Conference with Mayor Vincent Gray & National Organizations

US Capitol- May 29, 2012

The District of Columbia may be outnumbered by 535 voting members of Congress and outgunned without a vote even on matters that affect only it. However, the determination of the city to fight has never been in doubt. We learned last year that sometimes the fight itself can bring results. As the undemocratic attacks on the city's right to govern itself became unrelenting, District officials and many residents became increasingly engaged, and new allies, bringing new strategies, joined them.

When Congress passed the historic 1973 Home Rule Act, it delegated to the District the governing authority that it had exercised over the city for decades. Yet "small-government" Republicans have repeatedly violated their own federalist principles by breaching the division between the local government and the federal government that was born with the nation itself. Only willful and unprincipled blindness could lead today's Republicans, free of any accountability to D.C. voters, to try to erase city laws whenever it pleases them.

As the fiscal year 2013 appropriations cycle begins, we are again relieved and grateful that Americans throughout the country, and the organizations they belong to, have joined us in our struggle to allow D.C. to continue to use funds raised exclusively from local taxpayers as D.C. law provides. Last year, an expanded coalition of local and national organizations joined D.C.'s fight because they saw a fundamental violation of democracy and local control, and because they were moved by the undisguised tactics of bullies in the Congress, who use the District to further their personal and ideological preferences, at odds with the views of D.C. residents and millions of other Americans. These organizations believe that reproductive choice, gun safety, marriage equality, and HIV-AIDS prevention are important to many Americans and that those who disagree cross the line when they try to keep the city from using local taxpayer dollars on these matters of local law, as mandated by local citizens. The coalition of organizations rallied to our defense with considerable effect. In fiscal year 2012, Americans who are members of these organizations contacted their own members of Congress serving on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to let them know that they were watching to see whether they were focused on their own districts, or whether they were interfering with the local laws of the District of Columbia. For the first time, D.C. was not alone.

The results were encouraging. Despite threats of a number of riders in fiscal year 2012, in the end, there was only one anti-home-rule rider, but the ban on the District using local funds for abortion services for low-income women was embedded in the House D.C. appropriations bill as introduced, avoiding the usual process where a member steps forward to offer the rider and risks being seen by his constituents interfering in another district's local affairs. However, we vowed then, and say again today, that we will fight the unequal treatment that denies the low-income women of the District of Columbia access to reproductive choice afforded to women throughout the United States whose local governments use local funds for abortion services.

Because the abortion rider survived, and because Republicans have concentrated on several anti-choice bills affecting the District, two of today's speakers are from pro-choice organizations, but they represent the intentions of the larger coalition to work against all violations of the District's democratic right to spend its local funds as its own residents direct. We are deeply grateful to DC Vote, which organized the coalition of national organizations that have signed on to our struggle.

This fight began in the District of Columbia in April 2011, when Mayor Vincent Gray and other top elected officials of the D.C. government led residents in civil disobedience against undemocratic attempts to dismantle the city's home rule, piece by piece. That fight continues today. We have chosen defiance over despair. Thanks to our friends and allies, we are neither alone or isolated.

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