U.S. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton says she is trying to win more congressional support for her bill on D.C. statehood. (Photo: Norton.house.gov)
By Myía Borland
Howard University News Service
“Being in the majority is a whole lot better than how I’ve spent most of my time in the Congress in the minority,” Norton, a Democrat, said in her opening remarks during the monthly meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B in Ward 2.
Norton said she is working on getting three more Democratic senator to co-sign her D.C. statehood bill, called the Washington, D.C., Admission Act. The House of Representatives passed the bill for the second time on April 22, moving the District of Columbia closer to the possibility of becoming the 51st state.
“President Biden strongly endorsed the bill,” Norton said. “The bill has a record of 45 co-sponsors in the Senate.”
Beverly Schwartz, a resident in Ward 2, was puzzled by the disagreement over the bill within the Democratic Party. “What would be the objections now?” Schwartz asked, mentioning Sen. Joseph Manchin III, D-W.Va., and the other Democratic holdouts on supporting the statehood bill. “I can’t quite understand the objection.”
Since 2010, Manchin has been the senior senator for West Virginia. His state has become a predominantly Republican or “red state” since John McCain won the popular vote in the 2008 presidential election, creating a challenge to make a case for West Virginians to support democratic legislation.
“Manchin really is hard to deal with, because he is really from a Republican state,” Norton responded. “So, it’s really hard to get him to sign on to anything.”
“The second thing is that the district is trying to become a state in a way no state has become a state. No state has become a state by itself,” she explained. “We don’t have a partner. Puerto Rico certainly isn’t ready; it could be a partner. So, we’re trying to do this on our own.”
During the most recent session of Congress, Norton said she aided in defeating over 20 bills and amendments created by Republicans. While she was unable to vote on these bills, she argued against them and tried to make it evident that they would not benefit the country.
“Six of them [were] on of all things D.C.’s vaccine policy,” she said. “D.C. has done very well in keeping down the pandemic precisely because of its policy.” According to the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker, Washington has one of the lowest rates of total cases at 18,829 for every 100,000 residents, compared to a high of 26,692 in Florida.
Norton serves as the chair of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. The subcommittee’s website describes its responsibilities as “the development of national surface transportation policy, construction and improvement of highway and transit facilities, implementation of highway and transit safety programs and research activities, and regulation of commercial motor vehicle operations.”
Norton shared that she was able to help pass the bipartisan infrastructure law, which will enforce the improvement of national road repairs and help underprivileged communities.
“That is important for the district,” she said. “It includes funding for Metro and safer roads for all users.”
As part of the 117th Congress, Norton says she has been a major contributor to the changes being made in Washington.
“I have secured, retroactively, the $755 million that the then Republican-led Senate denied D.C. last Congress when it treated D.C. as a territory instead of as a state for coronavirus relief.”
During the question-and-answer period, Gerald Schwinn raised an issue many Washington residents have about helicopters. “Any progress in finding out why they fly over our neighborhood at multiple hours every day, morning and night?” The congresswoman informed him that she is working on getting that sorted out and will get back to the commission’s chair on the issue.
Norton has represented the District of Columbia as a non-voting member of Congress since 1991, and she was the first woman to serve as the chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She told meeting attendees that she has received stellar recognition and that she plans to continue making headway in helping Washington residents overcome challenges from the coronavirus and other factors.
““I have been ranked the most effective House democrat two congresses ago by the Center for Effective Lawmaking, and ranked as the 7th most effective House democrat last Congress.”
Myía Borland is a public affairs reporter for HUNewsService.com.