National Democrats parachuted into local District of Columbia politics this week to bolster D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser’s campaign to succeed Mayor Vincent Gray, but neither President Barack Obama nor Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz made any promises to use their political capital on behalf of residents’ longtime goal.
Statehood proponents see the chief executive of the District of Columbia as instrumental to building the political alliances that can give their cause some national traction. When Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., wanted to talk statehood last month, he invited Gray to be part of the first panel and speak on behalf of the city’s residents. Gray gets to hobnob with the governors of Maryland and Virginia, the region’s congressional delegation and occasional administration officials, and the activists expect him to be on message.
“The role of the mayor is so important,” Kimberly Perry, executive director of DC Vote, said in a phone interview. Her organization has pressed this year’s mayoral candidates for their strategies for working with Congress and the president. “It’s so important at every opportunity that they get, whether they think it’s practical or not, they have got to raise the issues of D.C. autonomy,” Perry said. Full story
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., is urging Republican senators who called on President Barack Obama to support the democracy movement in Hong Kong to also support democracy in D.C.
A bipartisan group of senators, including 10 Republicans and 11 Democrats, sent a letter to the president Thursday, urging Obama to “voice U.S. support for full democracy in Hong Kong.” The group included senators from both ends of the political spectrum who united to write, “[We] strongly support the Hong Kong people’s aspiration for universal suffrage and full democracy.”
In a statement issued later in the day, Norton applauded the show of support for those in Hong Kong fighting for democracy. However, she noted that all of the Republicans who signed the letter and were in the Senate in 2009 voted that year against granting D.C. voting rights on the House floor.
“I hope the Republican signatories recognize their inconsistency in supporting democracy abroad while actively opposing it in their own nation’s capital,” Norton said.
Norton is the District’s only official representative in Congress and she cannot vote on the House floor.
The D.C. statehood movement did reach a milestone in the Senate this year, with the first hearing on the subject in two decades. However, as Norton acknowledged after the hearing, achieving D.C. statehood in the gridlocked 113th Congress is very unlikely.
An earlier version of this story misstated the number of Republicans who voted against D.C. voting rights in 2009.
Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., tries to hail a taxi. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Between paid advertisements and weather updates on cab monitors, D.C. taxi riders have also heard a message about District voting rights. But those videos, which aired over the past seven months, are in the process of being replaced with a public service announcement about D.C. libraries.
Neville Waters, a spokesman for the D.C. Taxicab Commission, said the DC Vote public service announcements discussing District voting rights should have been replaced last month. However, the PSAs are still airing in some cabs as the monitors transition to the new content.
DC Vote is planning to create new videos next year to be used specifically in cabs and they hope the ads will air in taxis again in 2015. Waters said the commission “would certainly consider DC Vote” when evaluating PSAs for the cab monitors.
The most recent DC Vote videos, which first popped up in cabs in March, consisted of two 15-second spots, one featuring civil rights activist Julian Bond and the other featuring DC Vote’s executive director, Kimberly Perry.
“The goal of the PSAs, from our standpoint, was to educate the 20 million visitors that come to our city and ride in a cab every year,” Perry said in a phone interview Monday.
The D.C. Taxicab Commission deemed the videos as “non-commercial in nature” which qualified them as public service announcements, so DC Vote was not charged a fee for airing the clips.
Perry said the ads were also relatively inexpensive for DC Vote to create, thanks to discounted and donated resources. Perry also said the PSAs were very effective in informing visitors, residents and government employees about their cause, citing an increase in DC Vote memberships since the PSAs aired in March.
The PSAs directed viewers to visit the organization’s website and featured Bond and Perry making a similar statement noting, “D.C. families pay federal taxes, our sons and daughters fight and die in wars, but we have no vote in Congress. Isn’t it time we ended this injustice?”
Two independent candidates vying to become the next D.C. mayor presented two different views on achieving voting rights for D.C. and how best to work with — and without — Congress to do so.
David Catania, a member of the D.C. council, told the several dozen voters gathered at the DC Vote forum that District residents cannot count on Congress to help them achieve full voting rights.
With cloudy skies and the Capitol Dome visible through the office window behind him, Catania said, “I think Congress is so profoundly broken at this point that it is really, you know, quite a tall order to expect a broken Congress that can’t pass federal budgets, that can’t really respond to American democracy, to in fact give us ours.” Full story
Carper, left, chaired Monday’s hearing on D.C. statehood options. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Washington, D.C. residents crowded into a hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building Monday to witness the first hearing on D.C. statehood in two decades, though enacting statehood in the 113th Congress is not likely anytime soon.
Sen. Thomas R. Carper, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, facilitated the hearing, fulfilling a promise that the Senate would consider D.C. statehood in the fall.
But at the end of the hearing, Carper searched for viable solutions other than statehood, asking the second round of panelists, “What should we be able to agree to?” Full story
Rivlin will testify on D.C. statehood. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Updated 4:37 p.m. | Expect humanitarian and fiscal arguments for why the District of Columbia should become the 51st state during next week’s Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on the issue.
The witness list for the first hearing on D.C. statehood in more than two decades includes local elected officials, constitutional law experts, a civil rights leader and senior Brookings Institution fellow Alice Rivlin, the founding director of the Congressional Budget Office and an expert on fiscal policy.
D.C. statehood advocates will be flocking to the Capitol on Sept. 15. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
It took more than a year, but D.C. statehood advocates are finally getting the hearing that Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Thomas R. Carper promised.
The Delaware Democrat will hold a full committee hearing Sept. 15 on his “New Columbia Admission Act,” a bill that would unite the eight wards of the city into a full-fledged state, excluding federal landmarks such as the Capitol, White House and Supreme Court. Carper introduced the measure in January 2013 and six months later tweeted about a fall 2013 hearing on statehood.
During the August recess, there had been whispers among local activists that a mid-September hearing was in the works and committee aides confirmed a tentative time frame to CQ Roll Call. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., who has been pushing statehood legislation since she came to Congress in 1991, trumpeted news of the hearing in a Monday afternoon statement. Full story
Updated 7:25 p.m. | Multinational computer software company Adobe is being accused of discriminating against District of Columbia residents.
When a D.C. business owner tried to register for “Adobe Day” at a tech conference in Portland, Ore., the person found the District of Columbia excluded from the drop-down menu of states. With no option for the District, it was impossible to input a local address.
The business owner logged his complaint with shadow Sen. Paul Strauss, a Democrat whose top priority is getting the District some recognition from Congress. Strauss took to Twitter to rail against Adobe.
The District experienced similar treatment in early August from Push for Pizza, a smartphone app designed to streamline pie orders. After a backlash, the company briefly tried to correct the problem by having D.C. residents input Maryland or Virginia. That solution drew more criticism, so the folks at Push for Pizza updated the app.
“It’s bad enough when a new Pizza app discriminates, but Adobe is a serious company and should know better!” Strauss told CQ Roll Call. He added, ”Who do they think they are? The TSA!?!”
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., has been tangoing with the Transportation Safety Administration over the validity of District of Columbia licenses. TSA agents at Arizona and Florida airports caused commotion earlier this year when they failed to recognize the city’s identification cards as legitimate ID.
Adobe’s tech team reached out to CQ Roll Call via Twitter shortly before 7 p.m. Wednesday to say the error was brought to their attention “moments before” Strauss’ tweets and said a correction to the event registration page “is in motion.”
The Dome may go dark tonight. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Don’t be alarmed if the lights flicker outside the Capitol Dome Friday night. The enduring beacon of freedom isn’t dead — it’s undergoing regular maintenance.
The Architect of the Capitol is cautioning that brief power outages may occur as the agency performs planned maintenance to the electrical systems in the building. AOC spokeswoman Laura Condeluci assured CQ Roll Call the work is not related to the Dome restoration project, which has picked up pace during the August recess.
AOC electricians are responsible for thousands of miles of wiring and more than 100,000 light fixtures across Capitol Hill, according to the agency. Because many of the historic buildings on campus, including the Capitol, were built before electricity, they require continuous modernization and upgrades.
D.C. statehood activists wonder how the District would handle its criminal justice system if it becomes the 51st state. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Coming up with a practical plan for management of the Washington, D.C.’s courts and prisons could be a great way to sell GOP deficit hawks on making it the 51st state, advocates pitching statehood for D.C. believe.
They’ll have their chance at an upcoming Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing.
Pro-statehood activist Josh Burch says they don’t yet have the answer to a “$600 million question” about how the District would take back control and payment for its criminal justice system, presently paid for by all American taxpayers and run by the federal government.
“I think it’s a really legitimate question,” Burch told CQ Roll Call.
Campus Reporter Bridget Bowman (@bridgetbhc) keeps her eye what's happening on and around the Hill. She covers local elections, the Capitol Hill community, House and Senate administration, legislative agencies and congressional oversight over the District of Columbia.
Leadership Reporter Hannah Hess (@ha_nah_nah) covers law enforcement and ethics investigations, acting as a watchdog of both chambers of Congress. Her beat includes Capitol Police and the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms.