There was lots of swooning last week when President Barack Obama deigned to embrace statehood for the District. The praise poured out even though it was just an answer to a casual question, not a clarion call to the nation to right the wrong of our disenfranchisement.
But the reaction from Florida Republican Rep. John Mica might tell us more about how people really feel about our city’s lack of voting rights.
“I think the President must be spending too much time in Colorado,” Mica said to Fox5 reporter Matt Ackland, “because you would have to be high to think that Congress or anyone else is going to support making the District of Columbia the 51st state.”
But Mica wasn’t through. He rolled out a tired “solution” to our voting rights issue.
“I think one of the things we might consider is giving back most of the District to Maryland,” he said — “just keep the public buildings in the District and possibly disband the D.C. Council.” Note to Mica: Maryland doesn’t want us. That plan would forever disrupt and alter that state’s politics. Ask anyone in Baltimore.
Mica made his comments following the Donald Trump hotel groundbreaking last Wednesday. D.C.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton dismissed Mica as a “known District-basher.” Mica previously has suggested the city would soon get better public officials: “We’ll get some new blood here because the District’s demographics are changing.” We’ll leave you to figure out what that means.
But back to the president.
Obama previously has supported voting rights in Congress, and his administration has supported more budget autonomy for city leaders, rather than tying the city government’s $11 billion to the stops and starts of the federal budget process. (The autonomy bill on the Hill is mired in amendments that would loosen our gun laws and block our marijuana decriminalization law.)
Even supporting statehood, Obama didn’t pledge to do anything about it. Instead he was pessimistic: “The politics of it end up being difficult to get through Congress, but I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do.”
Praise for the president’s modest statement came from several groups.
The D.C. Statehood Coalition said it was “very pleased” with Obama’s brief answer to a question. And it called for action.
“After so many attempts at incremental reform over past decades,” the group wrote, “we ask Congress to hold hearings on the New Columbia Admission Act and then pass this bill, which would truly bring the promise of democracy to the people of the District of Columbia.”
Meanwhile, up on the fortress known as Capitol Hill, Norton was battling other assaults on the city.
She reserved floor time on Friday — the least attended day of the week other than Monday – to denounce Maryland Republican Andy Harris (marijuana) and Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie (guns) for interfering with the city’s limited home rule.
“The District of Columbia is under attack by two Members who are completely unaccountable for their actions,” Norton said in a press release. “These assaults on home rule, especially on our ability to protect our residents from dangerous weapons, deserve a full-throated response, which I intend to give today.”
Norton and other D.C. residents have noted that a congressional staff member was recently arrested for bringing a gun into a congressional office building.
Norton wryly — or just bitterly — noted that Rep. Massie has made no effort to ease the anti-gun laws on Capitol Hill. She reiterated the point Monday after a federal judge ruled against the District’s ban on the carrying of handguns in public.
Your Notebook in past columns has suggested that if the city is going to become an open market for guns, city leaders should pick the street closest to the Capitol building to license a retail gun operation. It should be open 24 hours. It should have a large, flashing neon sign in the shape of a six-shooter, the barrel every minute emitting clouds of gunpowder smoke. Heck, they could even give away toy guns to all the children who stop by.
Maybe Massie could cut the ribbon, or use a handgun to shoot it in half.
■ Clarification. Last week we mentioned the planned Bible Museum and a proposal that the city block or delay any local government permits it needs. We said the museum was a project of the Hobby Lobby retail craft store corporation.
A spokesperson for the museum asked us to point out that the Museum of the Bible planned for Southwest Washington is a 501(c)(3) organization that is legally separate from the Hobby Lobby corporation itself. The museum is a project of The Green Collection, which is led by Hobby Lobby president Steve Green and is named for the Green family, the founders and owners of Hobby Lobby.
Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.