Today I attended the Business Meeting of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs dressed in my colonial attire. I wear this costume for every congressional hearing related to representation for the residents of Washington, DC. I arrived early enough to snag a decent seat and sat down next to my friend Shadow Senator Michael D. Brown. As the other Senators arrived for the meeting he & I chatted about ideas related to what we can do next to get statehood for the District of Columbia.
A few minutes later when Senator Joe Lieberman walked in, Shadow Senator Michael D. Brown stood up, greeted him, and shook his hand. Senator Lieberman then looks at me and said something along the lines of “I’m glad to see that we have a colonist here. Do you go by the name of Paul Revere?” I said, “No, I’m just a DC colonist.” He followed, “So you don’t have a name? Just ‘DC Colonist’?” and I responded, “I’m just a DC Colonist that suffers taxation without representation.” He smiled, walked over to the end of the table, and sat down at his seat. A few minutes later the hearing began and he decided to greet me publicly…..
[to watch the video, you first need to hit play, then scroll the slider over to about 21:10 to watch the introduction]
Senator Lieberman said:
I do want to note and welcome Mayor Fenty of the District of Columbia we are honored that you are here and a somewhat older resident of the District from colonial times [laughter] also present. I gather you are making the general point about taxation without representation [off camera I nod in the affirmative]. Okay I don’t need to make my case any stronger than that [laughter]. Thank you for being here.
Also worthy of mention is that later on in the hearing (at around 43:15 into the video), Senator George Voinovich mentions the time when the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were in Washington, DC and we lobbied them on the Potomac River (right photo). Hearing him mention that day made me laugh. It was one of my favorite demonstrations I’ve ever taken part in! I remember watching the parliamentarians applaud our efforts from the ship and the following day they passed a resolution calling on the United States government to give DC residents congressional representation.
In the end, only Senator John McCain voted against the bill, S.R. 160, the senate version of the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009, and it passed the committee with a vote of 11-1. Unfortunately, I agree with McCain’s opinion, only states should receive representation in Congress.
I feel that DC Vote and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton wasted a huge opportunity to give DC residents equal representation in Congress by reintroducing this three-year-old, constitutionally questionable legislation that was written for a Republican controlled congress. Times have changed, however, the bill and its constitutional underpinnings have not. I’m not sure what will happen next to the bill, like when will it be voted on, but I am sure it will be challenged on it’s constitutionality. In the meantime, I’m going to continue to work with my Shadow Delegation on lobbying for statehood for the District of Columbia.
UPDATE: February 12th, 2009 – Comedian Stephan Colbert interviewed Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton the following night:
Its too bad the editors missed the chance with the Colonist…