The District may finally be primed to get a representative in Congress — albeit the inanimate kind.
On Wednesday, Rep. Daniel Lungren (R-Calif.) introduced a bill that would allow D.C. and the U.S. territories one statue apiece in the halls of the Capitol, where the 50 states currently each have two statues of native luminaries. A similar measure died last year after passing the House but never moving in the Senate, following an unexpectedly long and rancorous saga.
For years, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has been trying to get the District the same two-statue allowance afforded to the 50 states. Statues of abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass and architect Pierre L’Enfant have been completed and are sitting at One Judiciary Square, awaiting their ticket into the Capitol.
But a Norton bill for two statues stalled in the House last fall, as gun-rights supporters threatened to attach language that would have gutted the District’s gun laws — the same threat that previously stymied efforts to win voting rights in Congress for D.C. And some Republicans, led by Lungren, complained that giving the District two statues improperly equated D.C. with a state and could lead to more voting rights demands down the road.
Thus the current bipartisan compromise — D.C. gets just one statue, as would territories like Puerto Rico and Guam.
“I am grateful to Chairman Lungren for his consistent leadership and for introducing this bill, which is important to the recognition of our citizenship in our country,” Norton said in a press release Thursday. “I have no reason to believe that a non-controversial bill that passed the House last Congress by voice vote under suspension of the rules will not pass again.”
It’s not clear yet when Lungren’s bill will come to the House floor. And if the measure finally does get signed into law, then District leaders have a whole new question to consider — Douglass or L’Enfant?