Floor Speech in Support of H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act

April 22, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support 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, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentlewoman, Madam Chair, for yielding and salute her for her leadership in bringing this historic legislation to the Floor.  All of us join in saluting Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who has been the patron saint of D.C. statehood since she came to Congress.  She has been tireless, persistent and dissatisfied.  She has built historic support for this bill, which passed in the previous Congress with 235 votes. 

I rise as Speaker of the House to join my colleagues on this momentous day for American democracy, as we right an historic injustice by passing legislation to finally grant Washington D.C. statehood.  Statehood for the District of Columbia is about showing respect for our democracy, for the American people and for our Constitution.  That Constitution begins with our Preamble, ‘We The People,’ setting out our Founder's vision of a government of, by and for the people. 

Yet, for more than two centuries, the people of Washington, D.C. have been denied their right to fully participate in our and their democracy.  D.C., as the gentlewoman mentioned — Congresswoman Norton mentioned — pays more federal taxes per capita than any other state.  Its budget is larger than twelve states.  Its population is larger than two states.  Its people have fought in every American war since the Revolution.  D.C. residents have been fighting for voting rights and autonomy for 220 years, with a full 86 percent recently voting for statehood.  And it is well past the time to grant them the rights that they have been fighting for and that they deserve. 

As I said, Mr. Speaker, I rise as Speaker of the House on this momentous occasion.  It is an official honor to do so, but it is also a personal privilege to join Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, the distinguished Chair of the committee of jurisdiction Congresswoman Maloney and others of my colleagues — distinguished Majority Leader, Mr. Hoyer, who has made this part of his life's work in the Congress to join in the fight for statehood — as I say, a personal privilege because when I was born, my father was a Member of Congress from Baltimore, Maryland — Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr.  He served as Chairman of the District of Columbia Appropriations Subcommittee.  That position made him the unofficial mayor of Washington because of the authority that the committee had over the District of Columbia and their every decision. 

However, my father did not agree with that.  He was a proponent for home – what was then called ‘home rule.’  So, I often say statehood for the District of Columbia is in my DNA.  It went from home rule, then finally having a mayor, and now we want statehood.  There is not – we have always wanted statehood, but now we finally are able to pass it in the Congress.

There is nothing theoretical or abstract about statehood.  For example, last summer, the country watched in horror as federal agents and out-of-state National Guard troops were deployed against peaceful protestors in the District without residents' approval.  And then on January 6, as our Capitol was being defiled and our Capitol Police assaulted and killed and our Members and staff terrorized, D.C. leaders did not have the authority to call in the National Guard to protect its people.  Granting D.C. statehood means ensuring that its leaders have the tools they need to keep people safe.  The governor of any one of our states has the authority to call in the National Guard.  That is not an authority that is afforded to the Mayor of Washington, D.C.  If that were the case, we would have had protection much sooner.  

Statehood is also a matter of civil rights.  The residents of the District have a right to self-governance and control over their lives and futures.  And it is particularly meaningful that we pass this legislation just days after the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln signing the District of Columbia Compensation Emancipation Act, freeing enslaved people in the district. 

Today, by passing H.R. 51 to admit the state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth to the Union, the House will finally address this unjust, unequal and undemocratic situation.  We look forward to a swift vote in the Senate on this essential legislation so that we can send this important legislation to the President's desk.  At the same time, House Democrats will continue our work to protect every American's right to be heard at the ballot box.

With that, I urge a strong vote for D.C. statehood — fifty-one, H.R. 51, fifty-one states, easy to remember – and for its citizens' civil liberties, security and right to have a say in our democracy. 

And as I yield back, I once again want to commend Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton for her long dedication to justice for every person in our country, starting with the people she represents in the District of Columbia – hopefully soon to be the 51st state of the Union. 

With that, I urge an ‘aye’ vote and yield back the balance of my time.