Fight for D.C. Rights Comes to Capitol Hill on Friday
Washingtonians will storm Capitol Hill Friday to tell Congress how the District’s lack of legislative and budget freedom negatively affects their lives.
They plan to visit 60 offices, focusing on those with jurisdiction over D.C., as part of DC Vote’s annual lobby day, according to spokesman James Jones.
The group hopes to drive support for Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s “Paperwork Reduction Act,” which would scrap the congressional review process for bills passed by the D.C. Council, and find more sponsors for a measure to make “New Columbia” the 51st state. Despite a Government Accountability Office opinion declaring the law null , they plan to make lawmakers aware that the District’s budget autonomy law went into effect on Jan. 1 and the city is proceeding with its budget process according to the timetable established by the law.
Mayor Vincent Gray previously told CQ Roll Call he remained dubious about the legal standing of the law. Even supporters of the law still agree they want Congress to pass a bill granting D.C. budget autonomy. It will be a primary focus of their lobbying efforts.
DC Vote’s annual lobby day on the Hill is expected to draw about 40 people. Norton and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson will address the group early Friday morning before they head out.
The purpose is “to put a face on our struggle,” Jones told CQ Roll Call.
D.C.’s fight for voting rights in Congress recently earned international support.
On March 28, the United Nations Human Rights Committee reiterated its concern that D.C. residents are denied the right to elect voting representatives to the House and Senate. Though it’s not the first time the committee has weighed in on the District’s struggle — it issued a similar recommendation in 2006 — it may be the most direct.
World Rights, a global human rights advocacy group that submitted a brief to the committee on D.C.’s disenfranchisement, hopes their support will encourage President Barack Obama to use his executive powers on behalf of the District.
Norton praised World Rights and the U.N. Human Rights Committee in a statement.
“No other country so flagrantly limits the rights of citizens because they happen to live in their nation’s capital,” she said. D.C. residents pay federal taxes and serve in the nation’s wars, “but still, they are treated as second-class citizens in our own country.”
On Friday, she’ll try to make that message resonate with her congressional colleagues.