Eleanor Holmes Norton (born June 13, 1937) is a Delegate to Congress representing the District of Columbia. In her position she is able to serve on and vote with committees, as well as speak from the House floor. However, she is not permitted to vote on final passage of any legislation because she is not a full member of Congress.
Early life and career accomplishments
Eleanor Holmes was born in Washington, D.C. to Coleman Holmes, a civil servant, and Vela Holmes née Lynch, a schoolteacher. She attended Antioch College (B.A. 1960), Yale University (M.A. Black Woman’s Manifesto, a classic document of the Black feminist movement. Upon graduation from law school, she became a law clerk to Federal District Court Judge A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr. At the end of her clerkship, she later served as an assistant legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, adjunct assistant professor at New York University Law School, and executive assistant to the Mayor of New York. In the early 1970s, Mayor John Lindsay appointed her as the head of the New York City Human Rights Commission and she held the first hearings in the country on discrimination against women. Prominent feminists from throughout the country came to New York City to testify, while Norton used the platform as a means of raising public awareness about the application of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to women and sex discrimination. Appointed by President Jimmy Carter as the first female Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Norton released the EEOC's first set of regulations outlining what constituted sexual harassment and declaring that sexual harassment was indeed a form of sexual discrimination that violated federal civil rights laws. She has also served as a senior fellow of the Urban Institute and a professor at Georgetown University Law Center. Norton was one of the founders of the Women's Rights Law Reporter, the first legal periodical to focus exclusively on women's rights. She received a Foremother Award for her lifetime of accomplishments from the National Research Center for Women & Families in 2011.
1963) and Yale Law School (L.L.B 1964). While in college and graduate school, Norton was active in the civil rights movement and an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. By the time Norton graduated from Antioch, she had already been arrested for organizing and participating in sit-ins in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Ohio. While in law school, she traveled to Mississippi for the Mississippi Freedom Summer and worked with civil rights stalwarts like Medgar Evers. Norton's first encounter with a recently released, but physically beaten Fannie Lou Hamer forced Norton to bear witness to the intensity of violence and Jim Crow repression in the South. Her time with SNCC inspired her lifelong commitment to social activism and her budding sense of feminism. In the early 1970s, Eleanor Holmes Norton was a signer of the
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 took office on January 3, 1991, and has been reelected every two years since. Norton is up for reelection in November 2012.
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.
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.
She is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
In September 2010, conservative political commentator and webmaster Andrew Breitbart of BigGovernment.com publicized a voicemail that Norton had left for an unidentified lobbyist. In the voicemail, Norton says, "I'm handling the largest economic development project in the United States now...I was, frankly, uh, uh, surprised to see that we don't have a record, so far as I can tell, of your having given to me despite my uh, long and deep, uh, work. In fact, it's been my major work, uh, on the committee and sub-committee it's been essentially in your sector." In response, Norton's office told ABC News that "Norton is a longtime supporter of public financing of campaigns, but barring that, candidates from all parties regularly raise funds in calls by first identifying who they are and what they have done...Her request fully complied with legal and ethical requirements."
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. Once, Colbert said he thought Norton was undressing him with her eyes.
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.
October 11th, 2011