Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today was denied the right to testify at a House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution hearing on H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, and specifically Section 310 of the bill, which seeks to prevent D.C. from spending its local taxpayer-raised funds to provide abortions for low-income residents. Norton was denied the opportunity to testify by Chairman Trent Franks (R-AZ), although Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) submitted Norton’s request to give testimony in advance, and although members of Congress are routinely given the courtesy to testify at any hearing of their choosing.
“Not only do Republicans seek to trample on D.C.’s rights as a self-governing jurisdiction, they apparently seek to trample on my right as a Member of Congress to participate in the legislative process by giving testimony on a bill that directly affects the District,” Norton said. “We will not give up on our efforts to use every legitimate means to stop all anti-home rule attempts to roll back the progress the District has made over the past four years, including today’s attempt to prevent D.C. from funding abortions for low-income residents.”
Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton On H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution:
February 8, 2011
First, I want to strongly object to the Committee Majority’s denial of my request to testify today, particularly in light of the fact that H.R. 3 singles out the local law and taxpayer funds of my district. I recognize that no Member panel was contemplated, but in my two decades in the Congress, I have never seen a Member turned away from testifying, and certainly not when her own district was targeted by a bill under consideration.
I strongly oppose the harsh anti-choice H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, in its entirety, but I am specifically compelled to discuss an unprecedented provision of the bill, Section 310, “Application to District of Columbia.” This provision is entirely unrelated to the purposes of the bill, which seeks not only to write the Hyde amendment into federal law and extend it permanently, but to go much further, threatening the health of millions of women. However, H.R. 3 goes haywire and crosses the line between autocracy and democracy to dictate to the self-governing District of Columbia that it may not spend its own local taxpayer-raised funds as it chooses.
The new House Republican Majority that rode into town on the wings of a promise for jobs has yet to introduce a jobs bill. Instead, they quickly reverted to type, giving top priority to controversial social issues. Two of their top bills are aimed uniquely at one local jurisdiction, the District of Columbia. One of these anti-home-rule bills, sponsored by the Speaker, targets the District with D.C.-only private school vouchers, although our residents have created a large, alternative public charter school system that almost half of our children attend and that is so successful, it has long waiting lists. To compound the injury, the new House Majority has included an outrageous provision in H.R. 3 that would federalize the District of Columbia for purposes of denying the city the right to spend its own local funds on abortions for low-income residents.
During the past four years, I worked to carry out the will of D.C. residents and our local government by successfully removing all of the accumulated appropriations riders that eliminated the District’s right to decide how to spend its local funds on behalf of its residents, including for abortion for low-income women.
H.R. 3, however, not only seeks to re-impose the ban on the District’s use of its local funds for abortion, but also to make it permanent. This bill presents a new and expanded way to deny the residents of the District of Columbia their democratic rights. Unlike the prior prohibitions on the District’s use of its local funds, Section 310 states that the “term ‘Federal Government’ includes the government of the District of Columbia.” Declaring that the District is a part of the federal government for the purpose of abortion is an unprecedented violation of the District’s right to self-government.
The District of Columbia is not a colony of the Congress. We refuse to submit the funds we alone raise and decisions about how to spend our own local funds to Members of the House. We will not let the Majority get away with supporting democracy everywhere on earth except its own nation’s capital. The House Majority goes many steps too far when they introduce a bill with such potential harm to all women and then try to make it worse for the women of the District of Columbia by taking down part of the local government’s authority in the process.
The new House Majority says it supports limiting the federal government’s power and devolving that power to the states and localities. This bill does the opposite by using federal power to snatch local authority from the District of Columbia and its people. The time has come to practice what the House Majority preaches.