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With two weeks left in the 112th Congress, retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman surprised the District yesterday by introducing the “New Columbia Admissions Act” to make D.C. the 51st state. The bill—-the first D.C. statehood measure introduced in the Senate since 1993—-is seen as symbolic, given that no committee hearings have been scheduled on the measure and Congress is just about 100 percent absorbed with the looming fiscal cliff.

But that doesn’t stop Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton from getting excited about it.

“What do I make of it? I think it’s terrific to have a Senate bill!” she says. “You notice that it’s just been very difficult to get Senate support.”

Norton says Lieberman will be sorely missed by advocates for D.C. rights.

“The best friend we’ve ever had since I’ve been here has been Joe Lieberman,” she says. “You know, Joe and I disagree on some national matters, although he’s a core Democrat. But he’s been devoted to us. It’s one thing to get a senator to sign on and say ‘I’m on your side.’ He’s a terrific loss.”

But Tom Davis, the former Republican chairman of the House committee that oversees District affairs and a longtime supporter of greater D.C. autonomy, says Lieberman’s bill is, alas, little more than a gesture.

“I had dinner with Joe two nights ago,” Davis says. “I think he’s just laying down his marker.”

Photo of young Joe from lieberman.senate.gov