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Norton Introduces D.C. Statehood Bill Despite New Hurdles

Carper, left, with Norton at the D.C. statehood hearing. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In the face of likely opposition from the Republican-led 114th Congress, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., reintroduced the "New Columbia Admission Act" Tuesday, which would make the District of Columbia the 51st state.  

“Although residents recognize that today’s far-right Republican House and Senate will not move a District statehood bill, our citizens have shown that they will not reduce their activism for statehood,” Norton said in a statement. “The introduction of the New Columbia Admission Act is an important signal that this is the moment for building a strong statehood movement in the city and nationwide, in addition to the continuing work in Congress.” It is unclear whether Sen. Thomas R. Carper, the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, will introduce the Senate version of the statehood bill. But a Carper aide wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call that the Delaware Democrat "is eager to continue this conversation into the 114th Congress and looks forward to partnering with Congresswoman Norton on this important issue."  

In the 113th Congress, the statehood bill made significant gains, garnering a record number of co-sponsors, with 112 in the House and 21 in the Senate, all Democrats. The 113th Congress also saw the first congressional hearing on D.C. statehood in two decades.  

But, the likelihood that the bill will see the same movement in the 114th Congress is dim, considering  GOP opposition to statehood. Both chairmen of the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over D.C. oppose making the District the 51st state .  

Josh Burch, a co-founder of Neighbors United for D.C. Statehood, said in a Wednesday phone interview that he did not think it was likely the new Congress would act on the bill. But, he said, the group would continue reaching out to GOP lawmakers, hoping that their statehood message will resonate with Republican members who espouse the virtues of local governance.  

"I think having the bill introduced gives us the opportunity to continue to have this conversation with people across the aisle and say, this is the only way to ensure that we are equal citizens," Burch said. "If you care about local control or local affairs, this is the only way to permanently ensure that.”  

Burch led volunteers to Capitol Hill in November to rally support for the statehood bill. He said Wednesday that his group will continue to lobby lawmakers and also raise awareness about the District's political situation around the country.  

"This is our city, and the Capitol is within our city, and we need to be a constant presence up there,” Burch said. "Secondly we need to engage the 50 states.”  

Part of spreading the word includes drawing links between recent struggles with Congress over marijuana legalization , gun laws , and budget autonomy with the statehood movement. Burch said that while it is unfortunate when Congress steps into D.C. affairs, it helps bring attention to D.C.'s political status.  

“When Congress continually tries to meddle into our affairs, it helps us make our case, because when people hear about it, they say, 'Wow, that’s not right,'” said Burch. “People know that there’s something fundamentally un-American about that.”  

RELATED STORIES: D.C. Statehood Activists Looking Toward GOP Congress Muriel Bowser, D.C. Reps Focused on Statehood Despite GOP Congress Not Everyone Loves the New Columbia Statehood Commission    

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