WASHINGTON, DC – This morning, Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) joined House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) at a press conference ahead of a markup and committee vote on Congresswoman Norton’s DC Statehood bill. Below is a transcript of his remarks:
“Thank you very much Chair [Carolyn] Maloney and Congresswoman [Eleanor Holmes] Norton. Thank you very much for your leadership, your tenacity, and your focus, and your impetus to this particular piece of legislation.
“I have long been a supporter of and urged that the District of Columbia’s representative have a real vote in the Congress of the United States. Now when I was Majority Leader the first time, we assured that the representative of the District of Columbia and other non-voting Members of the Congress of the United States would have a vote in what we call our Committee of the Whole. Under the Constitution however, we could not extend that fully. Unfortunately, when the Republicans took back the Majority, they eliminated that vote, [which was] an act of disrespect, not only to the residents of the District of Columbia, but towards our democracy.
“What is the premise of the democracy? The premise of a democracy is that the people make the decisions, and they make those decisions by vote, by sending representatives to the United States Senate and to the House of Representatives to represent their point of view. But if you cannot vote, you cannot represent.
“Now having said that, Eleanor Holmes Norton does an extraordinary job representing the District of Columbia and its residents. She is a very senior Member of the Congress, a very influential Member of the Congress, and a very strong voice for the residents of the District of Columbia and democracy generally.
“I was Chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe for over a decade. We looked at democracy in Europe and in the signatory states, about how that Helsinki Final Act was being carried out in terms of giving people the voice. And I’ve looked more broadly than that, I cannot find a capital city in any free country in the world, not one, except the District of Columbia whose residents do not have a voting Member in their Parliament. Think of that. The beacon of democracy has a capital in which 700,000 people do not have a vote in the Parliament, Congress of the United States, of its country.
“Two states, Wyoming in particular, has 40% less residents than Washington, DC. Surely, our Founding Fathers, when they set aside a territory, and by the way Maryland gave part of its state, and Virginia gave part of its state – Virginia took their part back, just saying – to set up a Capital. Surely, the Founders didn’t think by doing so they would disenfranchise anybody who would move to that capital and live in the capital. Surely, they did not, and surely, we should not either.
“Now, I have long advocated, as I said, but I have come to the conclusion the only way to give the residents of the District of Columbia what every other citizen of America has – a voting representative in the Congress, or the Parliament, of the country – [is statehood]. So I am a strong supporter and congratulate Chair Maloney, and the 223 cosponsors. We had 224, one became a Republican and came off the bill. Do Republicans not believe that 700,000 of their fellow citizens ought to have a vote represented in the Congress of the United States? You’ll have to ask them that question.
“When this bill comes out of Committee, I have pledged to Ms. Norton and to Mayor Bowser and to Chair Maloney that this bill will come to the Floor. It is in the Democratic platform of our party, but much more importantly than that, it is the Constitutional right of a citizen of America to have a vote, and just because they move to their nation’s Capital that vote should not be taken away from them.
“So I’m very pleased to join Chair Maloney and one of the great leaders of the country for so many decades in so many different areas on behalf of civil rights, human rights, and in this case voting rights for the citizens, American citizens, who ought to be fully franchised. That’s what American is about. So we’re going to bring it to the Floor, and hopefully we’ll pass it through the House of Representatives. And I’m hopeful that Senator McConnell will put this bill on the Floor and let the Senators vote. Because just as surely as they ought to have voting representation in the House of Representatives, those 700,000 citizens – like Wyoming, like Vermont, who are smaller than the District of Columbia – [ought to] have voting representatives in the Senate and in the House. This is a blot on our democracy. We ought to remove it. Thank you.”