Democrats were mostly pleased with what President Obama included in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, but at least one local leader took notice of what he left out of the speech.
Despite the best efforts of Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and other District officials, Obama made no mention of D.C. in his address, omitting any call for voting rights or budget autonomy for the city.
“I was very disappointed,” Norton said in an interview Tuesday night, detailing the “extraordinary lengths” she went through to persuade the administration to include the District in the speech.
Norton said her efforts included “conversations with very high-level people” at the White House. She also sent Obama a letter outlining times when past presidents mentioned the District in their State of the Union addresses.
“I thought this president does not want to be invidiously compared to previous presidents, Democratic or Republican,” Norton said.
Now that he is in his second term, Norton said she had hoped Obama would feel more freedom to speak his mind on the subject of the District. She and other local leaders had been encouraged by Obama’s willingness to put the District’s ”No Taxation Without Representation” license plate on his limousine, and thought it might be a signal of what he would say in his speech.
“I guess it was no signal at all,” Norton said.
Not everyone was as optimistic as Norton was before the speech. District Mayor Vincent Gray (D) told Washington Post reporters and editors last week that he did not have high hopes
“I had talked to the administration about putting something about budget autonomy in the State of the Union speech, and it has not been well-received, I can tell you that,” he said. “I don’t expect to see anything.”
Like Norton, Gray said he expected a bolder Obama in his second term. ”He ought not to have that reticence at this point,” Gray said.
Despite Tuesday’s setback, Norton said she had no plans to give up the fight.
“I’m going to call the White House tomorrow,” Norton said. “I’m going to try to find out: What do we have to do?”