Norton notes Republicans once supported Statehood despite hesitations now

D.C. Statehood passes in Congress with Democratic support

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With Democratic support, D.C. Statehood passed in the House (216-208) on April 22, however Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) pointed out that Republican leaders were once supportive of giving the nation’s capital full voting rights in Congress and the Senate. (Courtesy Photo)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. and Digital Content Editor

For the second time in history, on Thursday, April 22, the House passed legislation ({H.R. 51} supporting District of Columbia Statehood, in a partisan vote of 216-208. While most Democratic Congressional leaders were supportive of making the nation’s capital the 51st state, many Republican congressmen do not agree with the need for full representation in the House and Senate.  However, as D.C.’s non-voting representative in Congress, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), celebrates the historic passage of H.R. 51 in large thanks to her Democratic colleagues, she also noted that there was once a time Republican leaders were on board with the initiative for the nation’s capital to receive full statehood.

“Fifty-four percent of the American people now support Statehood.  How did that happen? It happened because the hearings themselves educated Americans about what they didn’t know about their own nation’s capital- that the people who live here, more than 700,000 of us, don’t have the same rights they have.  So now you have the bill supported by 57 percent in the swing states,” Holmes Norton said to former Chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) Michael Streele on MSNBC’s {The Week with Joshua Johnson}.  “We have across the board support- we have men and women, we have Black and White. It looks like the more exposure the bill has, the more people come to it.  They don’t want to be the only Democratic country in the world that does not give full representation to people in their own capital.”

Norton’s Democratic colleagues took to Twitter to express their pleasure in the appropriately and symbolically titled legislation, {H.R. 51}.

“I was proud to vote yes on #DCStatehood. Our nation was built on the promise that all of us are created equal & deserve an equal say in our democracy. For far too long, D.C. residents have been denied adequate representation [and] a vote in Congress. It’s time to change that,” said  Rep. Eric Sewell (D-California).

The Congressional Black Caucus tweeted the breaking news of the historic passage, with a photo of Holmes-Norton holding a card with the amount of yays and nays from the Representatives’ votes.  The tweet read: “#DCStatehood has passed in the House thanks to [Holmes Norton] and [House Democrats]; this bill would make Washington, D.C., the nation’s 51st state!”

President Joe Biden also expressed support for D.C. Statehood.

Despite the current lack of full bi-partisan support, Holmes Norton noted that there was once a time where Republicans wanted to make the nation’s capital a state.

“Giving D.C. voting representation in Congress is such a radically liberal, far-left idea that the Republican Party endorsed it in its 1976 platform,” the District’s Delegate wrote.

In 1972, Republicans supported “voting representation in Congress and self government,” according to statehood.dc.gov.  Four years later, Republicans were once again supportive of giving D.C. full rights: “giving the District voting representation in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and full home rule over local matters.”

One Twitter user responded to the irony of Republican’s former bolstering of the nation’s capital having a full Congressional vote, with what he believes is the reason for the lack of GOP support for D.C. Statehood today, comparing it to the ongoing universal healthcare argument.

“Kinda like how Eisenhower wanted to do a national health system in 1953. If only we had such leaders in the opposition party today – but unfortunately Southern Democrats took over the [GOP] and now it’s run by #RINOS (Republicans in Name Only),” the passionate Twitter user wrote.

Someone else chimed in on Twitter saying, “They’re always dragging their filthy feet on this issue.”

While many Senate Democrats have supported D.C. Statehood, not every Democratic Senator is convinced that this is the best move for the nation’s capital.  Further, Republicans are unsupportive of the legislation, making the passage in the Senate unlikely. 

Nonetheless, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Shumer (D- New York) weighed in on the importance of D.C. Statehood, and why he was glad to reintroduce the legislation in the Senate. 

“The House just passed the bill to grant D.C. official statehood. This is about democracy. It’s about self-government. It’s about voting rights.  I was proud to re-introduce this bill in the Senate, and we are working to make #DCStatehood a reality,” Sen. Shumer tweeted.