Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is a historic nominee for the United States Supreme Court, except in one respect. While she is the first Black woman nominated for the Supreme Court — and I am confident she will be the first Black woman to serve on our nation’s highest court — as with every other Supreme Court nominee in history, residents of the District of Columbia will have no say on her confirmation. D.C. has no senators and, therefore, no vote on the confirmation of any nominee subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, including Supreme Court justices, America’s final arbiters of federal and constitutional law.
D.C. has a larger population than two states, pays more federal taxes than 21 states, and pays more federal taxes per capita than any state. However, the nearly 700,000 D.C. residents, a majority of whom are Black and Brown, have no voting representation in Congress, and Congress has complete legislative authority over D.C.
D.C. residents are excluded from the democratic process, forced to watch from the sidelines as Congress takes votes that affect D.C. and our country. Ironically, Judge Jackson, who was born in D.C. and lives in D.C., is excluded, too.
The solution is to make D.C. the 51st state. Congress has the authority to admit D.C. as a state, just as Congress has admitted all new states. The House of Representatives passed my D.C. statehood bill in 2020 and in 2021, which were the first and second times in history a chamber of Congress had passed the D.C. statehood bill.
The Senate version of the bill has a record 46 cosponsors, including the sponsor, and last year the Senate held the second-ever hearing on the D.C. statehood bill. Of special significance, 54 percent of Americans support D.C. statehood. However, at least for now, the Senate filibuster, which requires 60 votes to pass most legislation, unanimous Republican opposition to D.C. statehood, and the lack of support from a few Senate Democrats stand in the way of enactment of the D.C. statehood bill and full democracy for D.C. residents.
Because D.C. does not have senators, Presidents Biden, Obama, and Clinton granted me the senatorial courtesy to recommend candidates for the U.S. District Court for D.C. I recommended Judge Jackson to President Obama for the U.S. District Court for D.C., and she was confirmed by voice vote.
As a Black woman, a former tenured professor at Georgetown Law School, and as someone who argued before the Supreme Court, I take great pride and have full faith in Judge Jackson’s considerable abilities and sense of fairness. I am pleased to have recommended her to President Obama, and I look forward to seeing her embark on a new chapter of important work on behalf of our country.
Statehood is about more than voting on legislation in Congress and local control of local affairs. It is also about providing advice and consent for nominees in the Senate. While D.C. residents support Judge Jackson from the sidelines, they have the right, as American citizens, to voting representation in Congress, which will give them a voice in the confirmation of officials who have vast influence over policies affecting their daily lives. I hope all Americans will join me in fighting to achieve D.C. statehood.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, now in her fifteenth term as the Congresswoman for the District of Columbia, is the Chair of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. She serves on two committees: the Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The Congresswoman is a third-generation Washingtonian.
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