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House Bill Proposes Giving DC Officials New Titles

June 12, 2020 by Gaspard Le Dem

WASHINGTON – House Representatives Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, and Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., introduced a bill on Thursday to give District of Columbia officials new titles matching those of leaders in U.S. states.

The proposed measure, dubbed the District of Columbia Government Title Equality Act, upgrades the official title of D.C.’s mayor to governor, while the council would be refashioned as the Legislative Assembly, and council members would become representatives. The chairman of the D.C. Council would also get a new nickname as speaker of the Legislative Assembly.

The bill, which is largely symbolic, doesn’t grant D.C. any additional rights beyond its current status as a federal District. However, it fits into a longstanding push by Norton, D.C.’s non-voting delegate and a lifelong advocate for D.C. statehood, to secure equal representation in Congress for the District’s more than 700,000 residents.

The stated purpose of the legislation, according to a press release, is to “highlight to the American people and members of Congress that there would be a seamless transition to D.C. statehood because D.C. already operates as the functional equivalent of a state.”

It comes amid growing tensions between District officials and the Trump administration over the president’s deployment of federal police and out-of-state troops into D.C. during recent protests over the killing of George Floyd. 

On June 1, federal troops attacked demonstrators at Lafayette Square with tear gas and rubber bullets to make way for a bizarre photo-op that featured Trump posing with a bible at the historic St. John’s Church. 

Shortly after the incident, D.C. Mayor Bowser retaliated by symbolically renaming the intersection where protesters were attacked “Black Lives Matter Plaza” and by painting the slogan on the ground in huge yellow letters.

“Last week’s stunt by the President is evidence of the federal government’s ability to overstep its authority with little or no warning for D.C. leadership,” said Fudge in a statement. “I am proud to support Rep. Norton in taking the necessary steps toward obtaining statehood and guaranteeing the residents in our nation’s capital receive the freedoms and representation all Americans deserve.”

The push to turn D.C. into the nation’s 51st State has gained momentum in recent years among Democrats in Congress. In 2019, Norton introduced a bill named H.R. 51 to admit the state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, into the union “on equal footing with other states.”

The bill currently has 224 co-sponsors — all Democrats — in the House of Representatives, meaning it could easily clear the House floor. Last week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he “fully intended” to bring H.R. 51 to a vote before the end of the year, citing President Trump’s recent strong-arming of the District. 

“President Trump’s behavior in the District of Columbia in recent days, as well as his threats to impose his dangerous and callous will on a city about which he has proven again and again he has no understanding of, has underscored in dramatic terms the urgency of giving the District the same constitutional rights and authorities that the nation’s [other] states have had since 1789,” Hoyer said in a statement

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