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WASHINGTON, D.C. April 22, 2021 – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) celebrated House passage today of her District of Columbia statehood bill (H.R. 51). The bill passed by a vote of 216-208. The bill had 216 cosponsors, virtually guaranteeing passage. This was only the second time a chamber of Congress had ever passed the D.C. statehood bill. The first was when the House passed the bill last June.

“Today’s victory was historic, both for D.C. residents and for the cause of D.C. statehood,” Norton said. “For only the second time in history, the House passed the D.C. statehood bill. With Democrats in control of the Senate and White House, and with 54% of Americans supporting the bill, we have never been in a better position to achieve D.C. statehood.”

Norton’s opening remarks, delivered this morning on the floor of the House, can be found here or below:

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Floor Remarks on H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act

April 22, 2021

Congress has both the moral obligation and the constitutional authority to pass H.R. 51.  This country was founded on the principles of no taxation without representation and consent of the governed, but D.C. residents are taxed without representation and cannot consent to the laws under which they, as American citizens, must live. 

The State of Washington, D.C. would consist of 66 of the 68 square miles of the present-day federal district.  The federal district would be two square miles and Congress would retain plenary authority over it.

H.R. 51 complies with the Constitution, including the Admissions Clause, the District Clause and the 23rd Amendment. 

The Admissions Clause gives Congress the authority to admit new states.  All 37 new states were admitted by Congress.  No state was admitted by constitutional amendment, and no state would have to consent to the admission of the State of Washington, D.C. 

The District Clause gives Congress plenary authority over the federal district and establishes a maximum size of the federal district—100 square miles.  It does not establish a minimum size or a location of the federal district.  Congress reduced the size of the federal district by 30 percent in 1846.

The 23rd Amendment allows the federal district to participate in the Electoral College.  H.R. 51 repeals the enabling act for the 23rd Amendment and the 23rd Amendment would be repealed quickly.  In any event, the 23rd Amendment does not establish a minimum size or a location of the federal district. 

The Constitution does not establish any prerequisites for new states, but Congress generally has considered three: population and resources, support for statehood and commitment to democracy.  The State of Washington, D.C. would meet each.

D.C.’s population of 712,000 is larger than two states.  D.C. pays more federal taxes per capita than any state and pays more federal taxes than 21 states.  D.C.’s gross domestic product is larger than 17 states.  In 2016, 86 percent of D.C. residents voted for statehood.  D.C. residents have been petitioning for voting representation in Congress and local autonomy for 220 years.  

Congress has a choice.  It can continue to exclude D.C. residents from the democratic process, forcing them to watch from the sidelines as Congress votes on federal and D.C. laws, and to treat them, in the words of Frederick Douglass, as “aliens, not citizens, but subjects.”  Or it can live up to our nation’s founding principles, join the 54 percent of Americans—and growing—who support D.C. statehood and pass H.R. 51.

I yield back.