D.C. Statehood Gets Independence Day Push
House Democrats are voicing their support for the District of Columbia statehood effort ahead of Independence Day, though some of their leaders do not co-sponsor the statehood bill.
In an email sent to House Democratic offices Thursday morning, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s press office encouraged offices to retweet Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., who tweeted, “This July 4, we renew our fight to end #TaxationWithoutRepresentation in the nation’s capital with #DCStatehood!” The “Digital Dems Early Bird” email sent to offices highlights various caucus priorities each day.
— Eleanor H. Norton (@EleanorNorton) July 2, 2015
Though Pelosi’s Twitter account also retweeted Norton Thursday morning, the California Democrat’s name is notably absent from the list of co-sponsors for the New Columbia Admission Act, which would make D.C. the 51st state. The second highest-ranking House Democrat, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., is also not a co-sponsor.
“By custom during her time in leadership, Leader Pelosi does not cosponsor legislation with few exceptions such as [her district] CA-12 priorities and her own longstanding legislative priorities such as efforts to combat HIV/AIDS,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call Thursday.
But Kimberly Perry, the executive director of DC Vote, a group that advocates for District autonomy, said they have heard that argument from top Democrats before. Perry pointed out that Democratic National Committee Chairwoman and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., originally made the same argument when asked to co-sponsor the bill, but she eventually signed on.
When Perry saw that Pelosi had retweeted Norton this morning, she left a message at Pelosi’s office, reminding them that the statehood bill has been introduced again in the 114th Congress.
“We’re going to continue to work with her office and we hope that she will [become a co-sponsor],” Perry said in a Thursday phone interview. “She’s been a friend to the District in the past”
“I think it’s symbolic,” Perry said of House leaders signing onto the bill. “Someone of Nancy Pelosi’s stature and power to sign onto the bill sends a strong statement.”
On the Senate side, all four top Democrats co-sponsored the statehood bill, which was introduced last week . But the bill faces an uphill battle in both chambers due to Republican opposition.
Perry was encouraged by Pelosi’s social media push, noting that Pelosi has more than 600,000 followers. “That’s educating a lot of people,” Perry said. One of the key hurdles facing statehood advocates is a lack of understanding about the District’s political status, so for Perry and her fellow activists, the more people are aware of D.C.’s lack of voting rights, the better.
And for Pelosi, the Independence Day holiday presented a prime opportunity to educate Americans about this issue.
“Leader Pelosi has a long history of supporting autonomy for D.C. and statehood, and she supports the reintroduction of Congresswoman Norton’s statehood bill,” Hammill wrote. “Certainly, as we head into Independence Day weekend, we are reminded that the residents of the District of Columbia do not enjoy the same rights as everyone else in our country.”
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