Eleanor Holmes Norton ContactBack to top
Address: 2136 RHOB, DC 20515
Eleanor Holmes Norton CommitteesBack to top
Eleanor Holmes Norton BiographyBack to top
- Elected: 1990, 12th term.
- District: Washington District of Columbia
- Born: Jun. 13, 1937, Washington, D.C.
- Home: Washington, D.C.
Antioch Col., B.A. 1960, Yale, M.A. 1963, LL.B. 1964
- Professional Career:
Asst. legal dir., ACLU, 1965–70; New York City Human Rights Comm., 1970–77; Equal Empl. Oppor. Comm., 1977–81; Sr. fellow, The Urban Inst., 1981–82; Prof., Georgetown U. Law Ctr., 1982–present.
- Family: Divorced; 2 children
Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who was first elected delegate from the District of Columbia in 1990, grew up in Washington. The daughter of a District government employee and a school teacher, she graduated from Dunbar High School, famed for its distinguished black graduates, and went on to get a law degree at Yale. She worked for the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York City Commission on Human Rights, and was head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the Carter administration. Afterward, she taught law at Georgetown University. When the delegate seat came open in 1990, she ran for it, and drew criticism because her husband hadn’t filed their income taxes for several years. But in the primary, she edged past Council Member Betty Anne Kane, 39%-33%. Norton has been re-elected easily since.
In her early terms in the House, she had the difficult and sometimes vexing task of responding to the fiscal collapse of the District government just as Republicans took over Congress in 1995. But she was seen as hardworking, competent, intellectually honest, able to get along with opponents as well as fellow partisans, and willing to take personal and political risks. She established good relations with Republicans active on District matters. She led the drive to give the D.C. delegate and the four territorial delegates to the House—all of whom were then Democrats—votes on most legislation in the House. In 1995, she worked with Republican Tom Davis of Virginia and Speaker Newt Gingrich to create the fiscal control board to oversee District finances in the aftermath of the disastrous reign of the city’s drug-using mayor, Marion Barry. In 1997, she and Davis came up with the legislation that rescued the District’s finances and removed control over most of the government from Barry. The measure also included tax breaks for downtown and other neighborhoods. The District recovered financially, and in the next decade under Mayors Anthony Williams and Adrian Fenty, prospered. Norton successfully pushed several local projects, including the Southeast Federal Center Public-Private Development Act that promoted development around the Washington Navy Yard and the decision to place the Coast Guard headquarters on the grounds of the old St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. She protested vigorously when the House voted to repeal the District’s ban on handguns.
Throughout her decades in the House, Norton has sought to move the District toward statehood, to secure full representation in Congress and to prevent Congress from overriding decisions of the District government. “We must never retreat from our full citizenship rights, and we must always seize any part of our rights that we can get,” she told The Washington Post. Those goals seemed far out of reach during the District’s fiscal crisis and during the 12 years of Republican majorities in the House. Nonetheless she had some successes. She and Davis worked to pass a law providing in-state tuition for District students at colleges and universities in any state. And in 2007 she got the Democratic-controlled House to remove the ban on the District’s needle exchange program intended to reduce AIDS transmission.
But Norton has been frustrated in one of her top priorities, securing full voting rights for D.C. in the House of Representatives, even after Democrats won majorities in both houses of Congress in 2006 and won the presidency in 2008. Davis came up with the idea of creating two new House seats, one for the District of Columbia and the other for the state entitled to the 436th district under the statutory reapportionment formula, which after the 2000 census, happened to be heavily Republican Utah. That gave Republicans a strong incentive to vote for the bill. In 2007, the House passed her bill 241-177. But in the Senate that year, it fell three votes short of the 60 necessary to prevent a filibuster. In 2009, with increased Democratic majorities, Norton revived it and it passed the House Judiciary Committee in February 2009. In March, the Senate also approved it, 61-37, but with an amendment sponsored by conservative Sen. John Ensign of Nevada overturning the District’s strict gun control laws. Norton looked for a path to compromise, but then, House conservatives added even more constraints on the District’s ability to regulate guns in its jurisdiction, and Norton threw up her hands. Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said he would not bring it to the floor so long as District officials were opposed, and the legislation died.
In April 2011, Norton was furious when President Barack Obama, striking a budget deal with House Republicans to avert a government shutdown, made concessions that allowed the GOP conservatives to revive a school voucher program in the District and to prohibit the city from using its own funds to provide abortions for low-income women. She said both parties were using the District as a bargaining chip. She said, “It’s time that the District of Columbia told the Congress to go straight to hell.”
Nonetheless, Norton had a number of successes on local issues. In 2009, the House passed her bill freeing District employees from the federal Hatch Act limiting political activity once the District passed its own law on the subject. Her bill to allow the District to take over Kingman and Heritage islands in the Anacostia River passed the House as well, and her bill to restore retirement credits lost by District employees when their agency was transferred to the federal government became law. Democratic appropriators agreed to bar amendments affecting the District referendum authorizing medical marijuana and its ability to continue its needle exchange program. In addition, Norton got senators and the White House to recognize her recommendations for federal trial judges and the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.Show Less
Eleanor Holmes Norton Election ResultsBack to top
2010 (89%), 2008 (92%), 2006 (100%), 2004 (91%), 2002 (93%), 2000 (90%), 1998 (90%), 1996 (90%), 1994 (89%), 1992 (85%), 1990 (62%)
Eleanor Holmes Norton Votes and BillsBack to top Interest Group Ratings
The vote ratings by 10 special interest groups provide insight into a lawmaker’s general ideology and the degree to which he or she agrees with the group’s point of view. Two organizations provide just one combined rating for 2011 and 2012, the two sessions of the 112th Congress. They are the ACLU and the ITIC. About the interest groups.
The key votes show how a member of Congress voted on the major bills of the year. N indicates a "no" vote; Y a "yes" vote. If a member voted "present" or was absent, the bill caption is not shown. For a complete description of the bills included in key votes, see the Almanac's Guide to Usage.
- Repeal D.C. gun law
- Vote: N
- Year: 2008
- Share immigration data
- Vote: Y
- Year: 2007
- Foreign aid abortion ban
- Vote: N
- Year: 2007
- No operations in Iran
- Vote: Y
- Year: 2007