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Hoyer Remarks at Press Conference Ahead of House Vote on H. R. 51, the Washington, DC Admission Act

WASHINGTON, DC – This afternoon, Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) led a press conference with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA-12), Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) ahead of Thursday’s vote in the House on H.R. 51, the Washington, DC Admission Act. Below is a transcript of his remarks:

“Tomorrow, once again, we will be considering legislation to assure that the 700,000 plus people who live in the District of Columbia are, in fact, equal citizens to all their brothers and sisters throughout the United States of America. That’s what this issue is about: equality of citizenship. The House will put that bill on the Floor tomorrow morning.

“I have been proud to support DC statehood – which is a civil rights issue for our country. Really, it is a civil rights issue but it’s an equal rights issue: why should I, living some fifty miles from here, or Tom Carper, living some 75 miles from here, 80 miles from here, be represented by three voting members – at least – of the Congress of the United States, and someone, who determines that they want to come to work for their government, and they move to Washington, DC, lose their equality of citizenship? Yes, it is a civil rights [issue], but equality of citizenship. That’s a principle that we hold dear in the Constitution.

“In no other democratic nation in the world, does the capital city of that nation not have a vote in their parliament. Now our ‘parliament’ is called the Congress. Think of that, in no other democratic nation in the world are their citizens treated unequally in terms of a vote in the parliament of their nation.

“I brought this legislation to the Floor of last year and I am proud to do so again tomorrow. I expect it will pass. I expect the overwhelming majority, if not 100 percent – I really do expect 100 percent of Democrats to support this legislation. It is in our platform as a Democratic party to treat the citizens of the District of Columbia as equal citizens of the United States of America. It will then go to the Senate and I want to thank, very, very sincerely, my dear friend…[Senator Tom Carper] we have worked together for 39 years. He is a dear friend and I am so proud of his leadership in the United States Senate on behalf of this legislation.

“I want to thank, of course, an extraordinary representative. I’ve served here for 40 years, and Walter Fauntroy was the representative when I came here. It was clear that Walter was frustrated because he didn’t have a real role on the Floor of the House of Representatives. He did a lot of great work, and he was a great advocate for the District of Columbia. But I have not seen any representative in the District of Columbia more conscientiousness, more engaged, more intimately involved with the daily workings of the Congress of the United States, than Eleanor Holmes Norton, without the ability to vote.

“Now, I have extended, when I was first Majority Leader, then the Republicans took it away, and now, the right for Eleanor Holmes Norton, and the representatives of Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Northern Mariana [Islands], and Guam, to vote in the Committee of the Whole, but Constitutionally we can’t do that in terms of final passage. She needs to be a state. That’s why I came, Eleanor and I have talked about it and I said – Eleanor, we really need to try to get you the vote. I came to the conclusion that the only way to get the residents treated equally of the District of Columbia is to expand statehood to them, and they are larger than two other states in our nation.

“So although [Congresswoman] Eleanor Holmes Norton will not be able to vote on the Floor in the passage of this bill, she has been an extraordinary advocate and she is the principle reason why so many of us are engaged in this mission. So, Eleanor, thank you so much for your leadership. Let me now yield to the sponsor of this legislation and the warrior who is going to make it happen, [Congresswoman] Eleanor Holmes Norton.”  

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