Last month the District awakened to an all-Republican federal government for the second time in two years. After the 2000 election, this city lived with a Republican president, House and Senate and more than held its own. We will do it again.
In 2001 Jim Jeffords became an independent and gave the Democrats a one-seat Senate majority. Democratic control made a big difference on big D.C. issues. For example, the recent 9 to 0 vote of Joe Lieberman's Governmental Affairs Committee, which sent our D.C. voting rights bill to the Senate floor, was the most significant progress on D.C. voting rights in a generation.
What's next for voting rights and the rest of the city's pressing agenda now that Republicans again control the government? Our voting rights will not be a casualty of the Republican Congress. We maximized progress on this issue while we had a Democratic Senate. But whether Congress is Republican or Democratic, we have gone as far as we can on voting rights without going to the country. Our plan has always been to mount a national campaign for voting rights beginning next year.
As important as voting representation is, the vote is not all we need from the president and Congress. Further, there is no evidence that our local priorities are unachievable when Republicans are in power. Only the first four of my 12 years in Congress were under Democratic control, yet progress did not cease. To get benefits for the District, I have been guided by two notions:
First, despite our differences, Congress and its constituents benefit from a thriving nation's capital.
Second, the best way to pass bills is to align the District's interests with congressional trends. We have achieved valuable legislation by focusing on where Congress was going and getting the District on board. The College Access Act, which more than 2,000 residents use to attend public and private colleges here and around the nation, passed in a Republican House and Senate that were focused on education. We turned to the $5,000 Homebuyer Credit -- which has been key to stemming our population loss -- and to the critical D.C.-only business tax credits because GOP interest in tax cuts coincided with certain D.C. priorities.
The same principle of aligned interests applies to presidents. In 1991 George Bush was critical to the District's $300 million bailout. Bill Clinton ensured the District's recovery from insolvency with the Revitalization Act, which took responsibility for the lethal $5 billion pension liability and costly state functions. George W. Bush, only two years in office, has shown his regard for the District by funding the College Access Act and the Public Safety Reimbursement Act, which compensates the city for its coverage of demonstrations and federal events.
However, no president should end his term in Washington without leaving a personal legacy for the District. The president drives the congressional agenda, especially when his party controls Congress. The Revitalization Act, for example, would have gone nowhere without Congress, but Republicans worked with me to help transfer these costs from the District to the federal government because the president had funded the costs. Bush could exercise similar leadership on the $400 million the District needs to remedy the dangerous structural deficit imposed on it by the federal government. I am working on this problem with my colleagues, but I need the support of both the executive and legislative branches, and of Democrats and Republicans alike. The amount in the federal budget would be infinitesimal, but it would be a lifesaver for the District.
With Republicans in control of all three branches, a joint presidential-congressional strategy is indispensable for the nation's capital. The District must not be reluctant to pursue what it needs to thrive simply because the president and the congressional majority aren't Democratic. Whatever our party differences, issues affecting the well-being of the nation's capital are nonpartisan and resolvable. Unless the president and Congress draw partisan lines, we must draw no line in the sand.
-- Eleanor Holmes Norton
is the District's delegate to
the House of Representatives.