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D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton’s accusation that I, Mark Plotkin, mere commentator for WTOP radio, am the major obstacle in securing full congressional representation for the voteless citizens of D.C. cries out for comment (he said, in typical overstated style).

The congresswoman states to Loose Lips (5/24) that everything was just perfect until I made it “my business” to point out what she considers a little rhetorical tongue-in-cheek provision—which, in reality, kills her bill and casts serious doubt on the sincerity and seriousness of the cause.

For far too long, D.C. citizens have settled for the minimum. It’s about time we decide that just introducing a bill and granting us a hearing is not enough.

Doesn’t Norton understand? The time for posturing, posing, and playing has to stop. Our status as second-class Americans demands that we become smart and savvy. What is going on now is a sham and charade.

The following things have to happen:

Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. Russ Feingold have to make it their business to delete the taxation provision. Then the bill will finally go to the appropriate committee (Governmental Affairs, chaired by Lieberman himself).

Then something more important has to occur: A real strategy should be devised and deployed. Calls and visits by D.C. citizens to the following Democratic senators have to be made: Carl Levin (Mich.), Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Robert Torricelli (N.J.), Max Cleland (Ga.), Tom Carper (Del.), and Jean Carnahan (Mo). Sen. Richard Durbin can be excused. He is a co-sponsor of the bill. And two Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine and George Voinovich of Ohio, should be targeted for persuasion. Instead of just seeing staff, real appointments should be scheduled with real senators.

The mayor, the councilmembers, and Norton have to get to work now making these appointments for the next Lobby Day. (By the way, Lobby Day is not a feel-good, once-a-year event. It should be a disciplined exercise every two months.)

After a successful vote in the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, a delegation of citizens should go to Senator Committee Leader Tom Daschle and, with a minimum of 40 senators in favor, insist that a vote take place this year in the Senate before November, while the Democrats still have a majority.

This is critical. A little history: Norton initially did not want a statehood vote in 1993, even when there was a Democratic president and both houses of Congress were controlled by Democrats.

Not getting 51 votes on the floor should not be considered a defeat. As Sen. Feingold said to supporters, he brought up the campaign-finance-reform vote seven times before it


Finally, all wisdom does not reside in one person. All decisions of legislative strategy cannot and should not be left to one person. This is a fight and struggle that all of the 570,000 D.C. citizens have a right and an obligation to make their business.

Robert Caro, LBJ’s biographer, said that Johnson, when he cared about an issue, made it happen because he combined “legislative genius” with “savage determination.” We need both of those qualities and we need them now.

Political Commentator

WTOP Radio