WASHINGTON, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — The office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) released Norton’s prepared remarks from her press conference today with District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and a national and local coalition working to protect local D.C. laws from being blocked or overturned during the fiscal year 2019 appropriations process.
In her remarks, Norton said she called the coalition together to “go on the offensive as the fiscal year 2019 D.C. appropriations process begins.” She encouraged the coalition by recalling that when she “first came to Congress, the House held hearings on the District’s budget, as if it were a congressional bill…. but fighting together, we have not only eliminated those hearings, we have eliminated the appropriations subcommittee that held them.” She also noted that while many riders are “perennial attacks,” the coalition “should not be discouraged by the attacks that recur, because this shows our success in blocking them.” Norton and the speakers discussed in detail the most likely D.C. appropriations riders: attacking D.C.’s laws on gun safety, anti-discrimination, medical aid in dying, abortion and marijuana. Norton closed by saying “if Congress is inclined to focus on the District, we urge Members to pass our bill to make the District of Columbia the 51st state.”
In addition to Norton, the speakers were Avery Gardiner, Co-President, Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence; Aaron King, Student, Wilson High School; Georgeanne Usova, Legislative Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union; Mark Glaze, National Strategist, Death with Dignity National Center; Dana Singiser, Vice President of Government Relations and Public Policy, Planned Parenthood Federation of America; Kaitlyn Boecker, Policy Manager, Drug Policy Alliance; and Bo Shuff, Executive Director, DC Vote.
Other organizations in the coalition attending today’s press conference: All* Above All, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Catholics for Choice, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Compassion & Choices, DCMJ, and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Norton’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow:
I thank all of you for joining us at the Capitol, where we come annually to alert the Congress that we will keep coming until Congress no longer interferes with the local laws of the District of Columbia or grants D.C. statehood, whichever comes first.
I particularly thank Mayor Muriel Bowser and Chairman Phil Mendelson, as well as our speakers and representatives of the coalition of local and national organizations, for once again coming to the defense of the self-government rights of the District of Columbia and its residents. In addition to our speakers, our partners in this fight who are also here today are: All* Above All, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Catholics for Choice, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Compassion & Choices, DCMJ, and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
I want to give a special welcome to Aaron King, a student at Woodrow Wilson High School, who is coordinating students across the District for a “Town Hall for Our Lives” to take guns off our streets and prevent Congress from putting them back. I thank Aaron and D.C.’s young residents for showing Congress that a new breed of activists has joined the struggle for sensible gun safety reform, including fighting the repeated congressional attempts to eliminate D.C.’s local gun laws.
Today, we go on the offensive as the fiscal year 2019 D.C. appropriations process begins in this second session of the 115th Congress. During the first session, we saw more attacks on the District’s local laws than in recent memory.
Yet, we continue to make progress. When I first came to Congress, the House held hearings on the District’s budget, as if it were a congressional bill. D.C. may not have the same rights as other jurisdictions, but fighting together, we have not only eliminated those hearings, we have eliminated the appropriations subcommittee that held them. And we have defeated most bills and appropriations riders that have sought to overturn local D.C. laws.
Yet, as if on cue, each Congress, there are Republican Members who continue to abuse their remaining authority over the District by sponsoring bills or amendments to overturn D.C. laws. Their goal is to get financial contributions from corporations, satisfy special interest groups or raise their profiles back home.
Sometimes, the attacks on D.C.’s laws start with standalone bills to overturn our local laws. We almost always manage to stop those attacks from passing through Congress and becoming law. More often, Republicans turn to the appropriations process, which will serve as the House’s backstop for meddling in D.C.’s local laws until we achieve statehood.
Many are perennial attacks where some Republicans disagree with D.C. laws. Our coalition should not be discouraged by the attacks that recur, because this shows our success in blocking them.
Today, our coalition will discuss five amendments, or riders. We have defeated most of these before and expect success again with the unified help of our coalition and city leaders.
Perhaps the most persistent is the attempt to wipe out the District’s gun laws. Avery Gardiner of the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence will speak about the attacks launched this year by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Thomas Massie (R-KY). Aaron King of Woodrow Wilson High School will then speak on the impact of guns in D.C. and what he and his fellow students are doing to stop them.
Georgeanne Usova of the American Civil Liberties Union will discuss efforts to protect the District’s Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA), which prohibits employers in D.C. from discriminating against employees, their spouses or their dependents based on their reproductive health decisions. With the coalition’s help, we have preserved RHNDA for three consecutive fiscal years and fully expect to do so again.
Mark Glaze of the Death with Dignity National Center will outline the newest anti-D.C. attack, on D.C.’s medical aid-in-dying law, the Death with Dignity Act. We have protected the Death with Dignity Act twice already by highlighting the two Members of the House Republican leadership who are from states where medical aid in dying is legal.
Finally, we will hear about the two longest-standing riders—Dana Singiser of Planned Parenthood Federation of America on the rider blocking D.C. from spending its local funds on abortion for low-income women, and Kaitlyn Boecker of Drug Policy Alliance on the rider blocking D.C. from spending its local funds on commercializing marijuana. We know that it will likely take a Democratic House to remove these riders, but that possibility is in sight.
New riders may yet come during the appropriations process. Last year, we encountered a brand new rider offered by Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) to block D.C.’s law regulating the labeling of personal hygiene products, particularly wet wipes, as safe to flush. We shamed him endlessly for his barefaced handout to the corporations that produce wet wipes, and he ultimately withdrew his amendment. No member will get a free pass, and we will continue to tell them to go flush anti-D.C. riders.
In addition, we have kept two standalone bills from moving. Representative Steve King’s (R-IA) anti-labor bill that applies uniquely to D.C., and a bill introduced by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC) to radically alter our local educational system by requiring D.C. to spend its local funds for students to attend private schools and for other educational expenses.
Today we begin as the appropriations process does so that Congress faces a fully coordinated effort by our coalition, the mayor, the D.C. Council, D.C. students and residents to our repeat our past successes and to warn against further intrusions. If Congress is inclined to focus on the District, we urge Members to pass our bill to make the District of Columbia the 51st state.