Two local heroes deserve a place in the Capitol's Statuary Hall

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

HOW MANY statues the District of Columbia gets to place in the Capitol is, at first blush, a seemingly inconsequential matter. Congress, after all, is dealing with weightier issues, and there are other things, such as voting representation or budget autonomy, that matter more for D.C. residents. Nonetheless, the effort to curtail the number of D.C. statues symbolizes the shabby, second-class treatment afforded to citizens of this capital city.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's non-voting delegate, is pushing legislation that would allow the District to place two statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection, which showcases historical luminaries from each of the 50 states.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) has agreed to introduce the bill in the Senate, while a House committee earlier this summer endorsed the measure. However, the vote by the House Administration Committee split along party lines and came after a push by Republicans to limit the city to one statue -- the same as territories -- because it is not a state. The measure faces an uncertain future in both houses.

"There is a distinction between the states of the union, the territories [and] the District of Columbia," said Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) who led the Republican effort. Yes, such as how District residents are always given less than their due, except to when it comes to paying taxes or serving their country in the armed forces. Even when the Constitution was amended to allow District residents to vote for president, the city was limited to the number of electoral votes allotted to the least populous state.

The historical figures selected by the District for the hoped-for honor of inclusion in Statuary Hall are Pierre L'Enfant, the architect who designed the nation's capital, and the abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass. They are both local heroes and figures of national importance. It's time to give them -- and the people of D.C. -- real standing in the halls of Congress.

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