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Hoyer Remarks at Hearing on DC Statehood Legislation

WASHINGTON, DC - Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) delivered remarks today at the House Oversight and Reform’s hearing on H.R. 51, legislation introduced by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) to admit Washington, DC as the 51st state. Below is a transcript of his remarks:

“Madam Chair, thank you very much. Madam Mayor, Chairman [Phil] Mendelson, and others who are here at the table, thank you very much for your presence. I want to thank the Chairman Cummings and Ranking Member Jordan and certainly [Congresswoman] Eleanor Holmes Norton, my colleague and very close friend who has been a champion of this for her entire life as well as her career in Congress of the United States.  

“I strongly support statehood for the people of the District of Columbia. I’ve been a strong proponent, as I think everyone hopefully in this room knows, of representation in the House for the residents of Washington, DC for my career. In fact, I have said around the country that one of the greatest blots on our democracy is having 700,000 of our citizens unable to be fully represented in the Congress of the United States. And I have come to the conclusion that the only way to remove that blot is to be for statehood.

“As the previous speaker said, this was Maryland. It is now the District of Columbia. But the fact of the matter is, if it were still Maryland, those 700,000 people would have all of the voting rights. And, therefore, we must make the District of Columbia, larger than two other states in the Union, a member of the United States with full rights appurtenant thereto as the decree says. 

“I view this as one of the important civil rights and voting rights issues of our day. As I said, more than 700,000 Americans live here without full rights. That’s wrong. And we in Congress need to need to fix it. The citizens have a wonderful advocate in this House in Eleanor Holmes Norton, but she is still prohibited from voting on passage of legislation affecting her constituents. Now we have extended to the extent we could the right to vote in the committee of the whole, but that is not nearly enough. Full citizenship, full statehood is required. 

“Even if it had been successful that DC residents would still have a vote in the House, it would not be enough. If the District were to become a state, it would be larger in population than Vermont and Wyoming, as I have pointed out and as you have pointed out Madam Mayor. Statehood would also allow District residents the full measure of self-government afforded the rest of the states, removing the intrusion of Congressional rule, which often runs counter to the wants and needs of Washingtonians.

“A great Marylander and a citizen of the District of Columbia as well, Frederick Douglass once said: ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand.’ 

“Madam Chair, what we see here is the representatives of the people of Washington demanding full participation in the rights of their country. The hard work over the years by Congresswoman Norton and others and other advocates for DC representation provides the demand to which power – in this case, Congress – must concede.

“Madam Chair, I hope today’s hearing will provide additional clarity on how a statehood process might play out and how best to achieve the goal of providing full and equal representation to the people who live in Washington, DC, many of whom serve our nation ably in government as federal employees or contractors. But all are fellow citizens. 

“For their sake and for the sake of justice, for the sake of our Constitution, for the sake of the principles that we hold sacred, extending statehood to the District of Columbia of must be our objective and our result. I thank you for this opportunity.”