House bill would allow D.C. to place two statues among states' collection in Capitol

By Ben Pershing
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The District still doesn't have a vote in Congress, but it is moving closer to gaining some new representatives in the Capitol.

The House Administration Committee is expected to approve a bill Wednesday that would add two statues from the District to the National Statuary Hall Collection, which includes statues of historical luminaries from each state. About a third of the 100 statues are in Statuary Hall, an ornate domed room on the second floor of the Capitol, and the rest are in nearby hallways and the Capitol Visitor Center.

Because the District is not a state, it has been deprived of the chance to put two of its native sons or daughters in the halls of Congress. But Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has led a years-long fight to correct that, and the city picked its two representatives -- Pierre L'Enfant, the architect who designed the city, and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass -- four years ago.

The statues have been sculpted, at a combined cost of about $200,000, and have been sitting in the lobby of One Judiciary Square awaiting their chance to move into the Capitol.

"I don't think there's much to say here, except we want the same statues that citizens of other states see when they come to their Capitol," Norton said Tuesday.

The House Administration Committee will vote on a bill by Norton that would invite the District "to provide and furnish statues, in marble or bronze, not exceeding 2 in number, of deceased persons who have been citizens thereof, and illustrious for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military services, such as the District of Columbia may deem to be worthy of this national commemoration; and when so furnished, the same shall be placed in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol."

Past versions of the bill introduced by Norton said the District's statues should be placed "in the same manner as statues honoring citizens of the States." The new version includes no mention of the word "states," although Norton's office said there was no substantive difference between the new bill and the old ones.

Republicans on the administration panel are not expected to oppose Norton's bill. But the committee's ranking GOP lawmaker, Rep. Dan Lungren (Calif.), is expected to offer an amendment that would reduce the District's statue quota from two to one while also extending the same privilege to Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories that are similarly unrepresented in Statuary Hall.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday that after Norton's bill clears committee, it "will come to the floor relatively soon. And my expectation is that it will pass." There is no indication whether or when the Senate would take up the bill.

Norton began trying to win space in Statuary Hall several years ago, but the issue had taken a back seat to the effort to secure D.C. voting rights in the House.

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