Eleanor Holmes Norton


Eleanor Holmes Norton : biography

June 13, 1937 –

She received a Foremother Award for her lifetime of accomplishments from the National Research Center for Women & Families in 2011.


On July 27, 2006, Norton appeared on the "Better Know a District" segment of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, in which she spiritedly defended the District of Columbia’s claim to being a part of the United States. Norton also appeared on the joint Colbert Report/Daily Show "Midterm Midtacular" special on November 7, 2006. A further interview with Stephen Colbert was conducted on March 22, 2007, and April 24, 2007 on the subject of representation in the District of Columbia. On February 12, 2008, Colbert and Norton discussed her status as a superdelegate as well as her support of Barack Obama for President. She appeared once again on February 11, 2009 to discuss D.C. representation and promised Colbert that she would make him an honorary citizen of Washington, D.C., and give him a key to the city, if D.C. citizens were given representation. Colbert in turn gave Norton a "TV promise" that he would be there should that happen.

Colbert and Norton maintain a satirical rivalry, with their interviews usually involving Colbert belittling Norton’s fight for fair representation of D.C. and, in retaliation, Norton famously questioning Colbert’s nationality due to the pronunciation of his surname.

Norton is a regular panelist on the PBS women’s news program To the Contrary.

On June 27, 2008, Norton appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss the Supreme Court’s ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, which she strongly opposed.

Delegate to Congress

Norton was elected in 1990 as a Democratic delegate to the House of Representatives, defeating city council member Betty Ann Kane in the primary despite the last-minute revelation that Norton and her husband (both lawyers) had failed to file D.C. income tax returns between 1982 and 1989. As reported in the Washington Post, this issue was resolved when she and her husband paid over $80,000 in back taxes and fines. Her campaign manager was Donna Brazile. The delegate position was open because Del. Walter Fauntroy was running for mayor rather than seeking reelection. Norton received 39 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary election, and 59 percent of the vote in the general election. Norton took office on January 3, 1991, and has been reelected every two years since.

Delegates to Congress are entitled to sit in the House of Representatives and vote in committee (including the Committee of the Whole), but are not allowed to take part in legislative floor votes. The District shares this limited form of congressional representation with Puerto Rico and four other U.S. territories: Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

William Thomas and the White House Peace Vigil inspired Norton to introduce the Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act, which would require the United States to disable and dismantle its nuclear weapons when all other nations possessing nuclear weapons do likewise. Norton has been introducing a version of the bill since 1994.

Legislation strongly supported by Norton that would grant the District of Columbia a voting representative in the House, the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009, was passed by the United States Senate on February 26, 2009. However the legislation stalled in the House and failed to pass prior to the end of the 111th Congress.

The legislation proposed in 2009 did not grant Norton the right to vote in the 111th Congress, as she would have had to remain in her elected office of delegate for the duration of her two-year term.

In September 2010, the national press criticized Norton after the release of a voice message in which she solicits campaign funds from a lobbyist who represents a project that she oversees. Norton countered that the message was typical of appeals made by all members of Congress and that the call was made from campaign offices not paid for by taxpayers. In March 2012, the public radio series This American Life featured the voicemail message at the start of a program on lobbying titled "Take the Money and Run for Office".

In May 2012, Norton was blocked from testifying on an anti-abortion bill in her district—the second time she has been blocked from speaking about abortion. She remarked, saying it was a denial of a common courtesy. Representative Jerrold Nadler also came to Norton’s defense, saying "Never in my 20 years as a member of Congress have I seen a colleague treated so contemptuously."

She is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus.

Committee assignments

  • Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
    • Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, Post Office, and the District of Columbia
    • Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives
  • Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
    • Subcommittee on Aviation
    • Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management
    • Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment