DC Continues Fight for Autonomy
Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 22:02
Even though the 113th Congress has just begun, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the District of Columbia’s non-voting representative to Congress, has already reintroduced a bill for D.C. statehood.
The New Columbia Admission Act, which Norton resubmitted Jan. 15, would formally create the state of New Columbia. The area would encompass the entirety of the District and include two senators and one representative.
Norton introduced the same bill during the last session of Congress as well as two decades ago when she was first sworn into Congress.
Four Democratic senators — Tom Carper (D-Del.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) — introduced a companion bill to Norton’s in the Senate Jan. 24.
In the past, both houses of Congress have passed legislation to give the District a voting representative. However, neither house has passed such a bill in the same session so the proposals have never become law.
President Barack Obama has stated his support for granting the District voting rights and recently agreed to outfit his presidential limousines with standard D.C. license plates, which read “Taxation without Representation” in protest of the lack of autonomy.
The current legislation, however, faces significant obstacles.
“There is a political consideration,” Scott Fleming, Georgetown’s associate vice president for federal relations, said. “When you add two new senators and a voting member from the District of Columbia, that, even if very minimally, diminishes the clout of everyone else [in Congress].”
In addition, Fleming suggested that the District’s Democratic leanings could affect the bill’s future.
“There are those who might prognosticate which political party would likely win those seats, and that might influence some people’s decisions about whether they want further members of their body who share that political view,” he said.
As Norton begins her newest quest for statehood, District officials continue to take action toward autonomy in other forms. A referendum that would exempt the D.C. City Council from having to submit budgets for Congressional approval has been scheduled for April 23.
While the efforts to give the District voting representation in Congress are seen as likely to fail, the upcoming budget autonomy referendum represents a more realistic opportunity for increased District autonomy.
Even if voters approve the measure, it will likely be met with heavy legal resistance.
“Serious legal questions have been raised about the validity of the amendment,” D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan said in a letter to the Board of Elections.
Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House committee responsible for D.C., said Dec. 5 that the budget changes proposed in the referendum would not be lawful, according to news site Roll Call.