A U.S. House committee on Tuesday advanced a bill that D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said would provide the biggest expansion of D.C. home rule in nearly 50 years.
The bill would give D.C. the exclusive authority to prosecute, and grant clemency for, D.C. crimes.
In the District of Columbia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is unique — it serves as both the local and federal prosecutor for D.C.
Norton’s legislation would also eliminate a congressional review for D.C. legislation, which is required for measures passed by the D.C. Council.
During a markup of the bill by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Norton reiterated her longtime argument that D.C. should become a state.
“D.C. should and will be a state,” she said. “However, until Congress grants D.C. statehood, there is no constitutional or policy reason Congress should not pass this bill.”
She said her proposal includes the most significant changes since passage of the D.C. Home Rule Act in 1973.
The bill was opposed by Republicans, who argued the District can’t handle self-government and still needs congressional oversight.
Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., the ranking GOP lawmaker on the committee, criticized D.C. for its handling of the pandemic, charging that lockdowns and restrictions went too far.
He also cited rising crime in the District as a reason lawmakers should continue to review its spending and policy decisions.
“At a time of rising violent crime in the District, we should not be further eroding the law in D.C.,” he said.
Norton’s legislation has support from House Democrats, but it’s likely to hit a legislative wall in the U.S. Senate, where it would need to get GOP support to overcome a filibuster.
The House in recent years has passed a separate bill sponsored by Norton that calls for D.C. to become a state.
The House has also passed a bill that would give the D.C. mayor control over the D.C. National Guard, but neither bill has moved forward in the Senate.
D.C. Mayor Bowser, unlike state governors, can’t activate the local National Guard. The issue has received scrutiny due in part to delays in getting National Guard personnel to respond to the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.