Pelosi Remarks at Press Conference on H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act

April 21, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney and Senator Tom Carper for a press conference ahead of the passage of H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, which would grant statehood to the residents of the District of Columbia.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.  How inspiring it is to hear you talk about your grandfather, Holmes, walking away from the plantation, and you continuing that walk.  You continue it for your family.  You continue it for your district.  You continue it for everyone in our country.  Thank you for your tremendous leadership. 

And really, last year, when we passed the – last Congress, when we passed the bill, that was Mr. – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton’s reputation and respect she commanded among our colleagues, Steny’s determination and insistence that the bill would be brought to the Floor and that we would have the votes.  And we celebrated.  It was the first time that the House of Representatives had recognized and voted and supported of statehood for the District of Columbia.  I proudly wear this 51 mask.

So, it’s an honor to join Democrats from both sides of the Capitol.  I’m pleased to welcome Senator Carper back over to the House side.  Steny talked about serving with him all that time.  I sat next to him in the Financial – it was called Banking in those days, it was so long ago, it had a different name – the Banking Committee.  And I remember celebrating the birth of his two sons at that time.  They’re now in their thirties – you said thirty-one, thirty-two, like that?  So, it's been a long-time friendship, so I’ve seen his championing of America's families, his own and others for a long time, and so [I’m] pleased that he is the author of this important legislation.  From the First State, the First State, and now, the 51st state.

So it’s an honor to join Democrats from both sides of the [Capitol].  And, of course, our persistent, relentless, determined Chair of the committee of jurisdiction, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who will not rest while she’s got – she wears it not only on her sleeve, but throughout. 

[Laughter]

‘Vote, Vote, Vote.’  There you go.  Okay. 

By voting for D.C. statehood, the House of Representatives reaffirms this truth: that all deserve a voice in our democracy.  To hear Congresswoman Holmes Norton talk about equality for the people of the District of Columbia – equality because of equal representation in the Congress — I salute her, the patron saint of D.C. statehood, thank her for her decades of persistent, dissatisfied leadership.  H.R. 51 has a very record-breaking number of original co-sponsors.  Congratulations.

Again, I say, our Leader, Mr. Hoyer, has been relentless in this fight as well – Chair Carolyn Maloney, and Senator Carper, the author of the legislation in the Senate.   

Our Founders built our democracy on a simple promise that every American should have a voice in our government, from city hall to the halls of Congress. 

Washingtonians, as the Congresswoman said, pay taxes, fight in our wars, contribute to the economic might of our country, but for centuries they have been denied their right to representation.  What does the license plate say?  Taxation without representation.  It’s one of the manifestations.

It’s imperative that we correct this injustice, which is also a matter of civil rights and security.  As last summer's protests and the January 6th insurrection made clear, D.C. must be empowered to protected its people.  If [the] District of Columbia were a state, the chief executive would have been able to call out the National Guard, like any other head of a state in our country – another reason for this to happen.

To me, this is personal.  Mr. Hoyer talked about his longtime relationships and his commitment to this idea.  Eleanor Holmes Norton talked about her family in her commitment to this.  We’ve been talking about Mr. Carper’s children.

When I was born – let’s not go into that –

[Laughter]

My father was the Representative for Baltimore, and he was Chair of the District of Columbia Appropriation Subcommittee.  Now those of you who've been following this issue, because we've had many press conferences, have heard me tell this story many times.  That position, Chairman of the District of Columbia Subcommittee of Appropriations, made him what was called then the official – the unofficial mayor of Washington because of the authority the committee had over the District.

He did not like that.  He was a big believer of home rule.  So, I often say that statehood for the District of Colombia is in my DNA.

If you come to my office, when you will be allowed to come to any of our offices, you will see his picture there with Eleanor Roosevelt – he, as Chair of the Committee, welcoming her, the first First Lady in American history to testify before Congress.  And she testified about welfare conditions in the District of Columbia.

Today with H.R. 51, Congress is taking [a] significant step to enfranchise the people and empower them to participate fully in our democracy.  Again, we’re excited that we will pass it.  We will celebrate.  And we hope that that momentum will help to pass in the Senate so that the President can sign it into law.  

And then to that end, we are very magnificently served by the respect that he commands and the commitment that he has to this issue of equality in our former House Member, now Chairman of the Committee in the Senate, Tom Carper.  I’m pleased to yield to him.

Thank you.

Leader Hoyer.  Carolyn’s going to go first.  We had Tom Carper as clean-up because he’s going to get it through the United States Senate.   

Speaker Pelosi.  Okay.

[Laughter]

I’m pleased to yield to the distinguished Chair of the committee of jurisdiction, who long before she was Chair of that committee, had been a strong advocate for fairness for the District of Columbia.