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Washington, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton weighs in on statehood bill

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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents Washington, D.C. as a delegate in the House of Representatives, joins CBSN to discuss the Washington Admission Act and what's driving legislation to make D.C. the 51st state in the union.

Video Transcript

- An effort to make Washington, DC, the 51st state is gaining momentum among Democrats. A new bill has been brought up on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers on the oversight and reform committee held a hearing with witnesses, including DC mayor, Muriel Bowser, to discuss the bill, which would give DC residents representation in Congress. But the dilemma has sparked somewhat of a constitutional debate. Remember that old saying, "No taxation without representation"? Well, we will discuss.

My next guest is Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. She is a delegate to the United States House of Representatives, representing the District of Columbia. Welcome, Representative. So great to have you with us. So you don't get a vote in the House or the Senate. So can you explain how you represent DC on Capitol Hill and how your role compares to that of state representatives?

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Well, I get to do everything that a state representative does except that final vote on the House floor. I chair committees. I can speak on the House floor. But when it comes to the final vote on the House floor, even if the matter involves the District of Columbia, I cannot vote on that. That's what I would get with DC statehood. And of course, the District would get two senators as well, and that is what most lacks.

- And of course, statehood legislation has been a goal for you throughout your three years-- three-- sorry-- decades, rather, in Congress. Can you explain what you believe that it would accomplish and why you are supporting this legislation?

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Even though the people I represent pay the highest federal taxes per capita in the United States, they don't have equal rights with everyone in the United States. I have to keep bills from being overturned by Republicans when they go through the city council. We have no representation in the Senate. So when a bill passes the House, I have to find friends and allies there. In other words, the United States of America is the only democratic country that treats the people who live in their own capital differently from everybody else in the country, and I should say not only differently, but unequally.

- And so what are the arguments, then, against making DC a state? Why do some lawmakers oppose it?

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: They make arguments going from the fact that we have no manufacturing-- we don't look like a state, in other words-- to perhaps more serious arguments that the Framers never intended that the District would not be a state.

Well, just consider this. They went to-- they went to war over taxation without representation. Why would they have left their own capital with taxation without representation? There's nothing in the Constitution that says that the District should not be a state. So you don't have that to pin it on.

The District is not a state only because the Congress of the United States until now has not passed a bill to make it a state. And now, of course, the Congress has passed such a bill in the House. And given the fact that 54% of the American people, according to the latest polls, support DC statehood, I am optimistic about its future in the Senate as well.

- And again, this has been your goal for 30 decades in Congress, and you say you are as close as you've ever been to accomplishing it. Why is the time right now? And how do you plan to overcome a potential filibuster in the Senate?

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Well, the time is ripe now because Democrats control the House, the Senate, and the White House. That's just not happened since my first term, when I was actually able to get a vote on DC statehood for the first time in our city's history. But the House was controlled by Democrats, but most of them, many of them, were Southern Democrats who did not support DC statehood.

The time is ripe now because we have all the branches of government, because we have this large majority, mounting majority of the American people. And every time we have a hearing, that majority goes up. The country is ready for it. We want to get out of the unique status of having a capital which are denied the rights that others in their country have.

- Representative Eleanor Mahomes Norton, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate your time and your insight.

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: Always a pleasure.