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Posted at 10:10 AM ET, 12/14/2010

House to vote on putting D.C. statue in Capitol

By Ben Pershing

Updated 11:40 a.m.
The House will take up a bill this week adding one statue of a District luminary to the halls of the Capitol, as Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) tries to chalk up a small victory for the city before Congress adjourns.

The bill represents a compromise, as another measure championed by Norton to add two statues to Congress' Statuary Hall collection stalled earlier this year amid concerns that gun-rights supporters would try to attach language gutting the District's gun laws. The same impasse helped kill D.C. voting rights legislation for the foreseeable future.

That earlier measure would put statues of abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass and architect Pierre L'Enfant in the Capitol; the two statues have been completed and are sitting at One Judiciary Square awaiting a permanent home.

But aside from the gun-law issue, Republicans also protested that Norton's original bill would grant only one statue apiece to U.S. territories while assigning two to D.C. -- the same number as each of the 50 states. Led by Rep. Dan Lungren (Calif.), the top Republican on the House Administration Committee, they complained that by treating D.C. on par with a state, the statues bill could set a precedent for voting rights and other legislation.

With time running out in the 111th Congress, Norton and her fellow Democrats have decided to lower their sights. On Wednesday the House will vote on a bill that includes language introduced by Lungren, granting one statue apiece to the territories as well as D.C. The measure will come up under suspension of the rules, which means it can not be amended but will need a two-thirds majority to pass. A spokeswoman for Lungren says he will vote for the measure, and Norton hopes his fellow Republicans follow suit.

"Its federal taxpaying status entitles the District to two statues, like other jurisdictions that pay the full freight to support our government," Norton said in a statement issued by her office. "However, we need to seize whatever rights we can, when we can, and pick up the rest when we can."

The Senate, meanwhile, has a host of end-of-session legislation to process -- including the tax-cut package, a spending resolution for next year and the START treaty -- so it's not clear whether the chamber would take up the statue bill before adjournment.

And if both chambers do pass the bill, which statue will get the honor of representing the District? Would it be Douglass or L'Enfant? Norton's office says it would be up to the District government to decide.

By Ben Pershing  | December 14, 2010; 10:10 AM ET
Categories:  Ben Pershing, Congressional Oversight, Voting Rights  
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