**FILE** Eleanor Holmes Norton represents D.C. in the U.S. Congress. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)
**FILE** Eleanor Holmes Norton represents D.C. in the U.S. Congress. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton served as the host for the “A New Majority for D.C. Statehood” virtual issue forum for the 50th Annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference that took place on Sept. 13.

In addition to Norton, panelists for the 27-minute issue forum included U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Justin Vail, the special assistant to the president for Democracy & Civic Participation and Stasha Rhodes, the campaign manager for 51 for 51, an advocacy organization with the goal of getting a D.C. statehood bill on the Senate floor without the filibuster as an impediment.

Norton, who shepherded the passing of her own D.C. statehood bill for the second time in the U.S. House of Representatives in April, led the issue forum three months after the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held its second ever hearing on D.C. statehood. Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.) serves as the author and primary sponsor of the Senate’s “The Washington, D.C. Admission Act of 2021.”

 Carper’s bill has 45 co-sponsors, with 44 Democrats and one independent. His bill has no Republican sponsors. One Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), said he supports the District becoming a state but only through a constitutional amendment.

Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly of Arizona and independent Angus King of Maine have not publicly weighed in on D.C. statehood legislation. Without a change to the Senate’s filibuster rules, Carper’s bill would need 60 votes for consideration on the chamber’s floor.


Cardin said the District becoming the 51st state of the Union “will correct a great wrong.”

“There is no justification for the denial of the full rights for the 700,000 residents of the District of Columbia,” Cardin said. “Congresswoman Norton, your friends in Maryland and around the nation are with you on this. This is a basic denial of human rights.”

Cardin said that as the chairman of the Helsinki Commission, he let it be known that District residents could not fully participate in its national legislature, that being a violation of international human rights. Cardin said his fellow Democratic senators are with the residents of the District and “we are making progress in the Senate.”


Vail said the Biden-Harris administration strongly supports D.C. statehood.

“We urge Congress to send the bill to the president’s desk so he can sign it,” he said. “It is an affront to the very democratic values that we stand for that the District is not a state.”

Vail said Congress has within its power to make the city a state and called for the Senate to move quickly so the orderly transition to statehood could take place.


Rhodes said while she supports with enthusiasm such legislation such as For the People Act of 2021 and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021, the D.C. statehood bill should be embraced by the voting rights movement, also.

“It shouldn’t just be H.R. 1 or H.R. 5 but H.R. 51, too,” she said.

Rhodes said 54 percent of Americans in a recent poll favored statehood for the District.

“Throughout our two-and-a-half years working for statehood, we have found the more people knew about D.C. residents not having their full rights despite paying federal taxes, the more they supported us,” she said. “What we need now is for D.C. residents to tell their story. We are a city of nurses and librarians who are disconnected from the lobbyists and the press the city is known for.”

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James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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1 Comment

  1. I suggest they get Puerto Rico statehood done first so island voters could elect two US senators and hopeful they’ll be Dems to help reform the filibuster for D.C. statehood since Republicans oppose it.

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