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District Moves Closer to Gaining Spot in Statuary Hall

Correction Appended

The House voted late Wednesday night to place statues of one illustrious deceased person for each of the territories and the District of Columbia in the Capitols Statuary Hall, but the bills future is uncertain in the Senate.

The House Administration Committee passed legislation in July that would have allowed two statues for the District of Columbia and one statue each for the five territories. But the bill passed by voice vote Wednesday resembled an amendment introduced over the summer by the committees ranking member, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.).

The compromise was meant to appease Lungren and other Republicans who argued that giving the District two statues would be a symbolic nod toward statehood.

Anytime youre dealing with D.C., Republicans always want to assume its a referendum on D.C. statehood, a senior Democratic staffer said. Our political calculations told us that that was our best chance of passing it.

Democrats are hoping the concession will have the same effect in the Senate. A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the office hasnt received a request to begin the bill clearance process yet.

The House passage marks a bittersweet and symbolic victory for voting rights activists in the District.

Wed rather go with one statue than no statue, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said Wednesday, echoing a common refrain among the citys advocates. Thats the kind of compromise were willing to make.

Ilir Zherka, executive director of the advocacy group DC Vote, said Tuesday that if the measure didnt pass the House, it would indicate the extremity of Republican opposition to District initiatives. Republicans, who have generally not favored voting rights for the District, will hold a majority in the House in the 112th Congress.

If that vote fails, if you cant get statues, you cant get budget autonomy, you cant get legislative autonomy, you cant put your own slogan on the D.C. quarter, so whats possible? Zherka said. DC Vote has promised to redouble its efforts moving into next year.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer released a statement Wednesday evening supporting the statue bill.

I believe, in fact, that the District of Columbia deserves two statues, just like any state; but failing that, I believe that some recognition is better than none, the Maryland Democrat said. The people of the District of Columbia have made remarkable contributions to Americas history, its culture, and its ongoing work to guarantee equal rights to all and its time that those contributions are recognized here in the heart of our democracy.

When it seemed feasible that two statues would be placed in the hall, D.C. commissioned the creation of figures of iconic writer and abolitionist Frederick Douglass and architect Pierre LEnfant, who mapped out the city. The statues have been sitting at One Judiciary Square pending the Congressional go-ahead.

If the Senate passes the bill, the city will face the dilemma of choosing between the likenesses, Norton said.

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