The budget proposal that President Obama released earlier today is the first in a series of executive and congressional actions that will fund the government in the next fiscal year. Among the thousands of pages of tables and spreadsheets are two items of note to DC democracy advocates.
The District of Columbia annually receives direct Federal payments for a number of local programs in recognition of the District's unique status as the seat of the Federal Government. These General and Special Payments are separate from and in addition to the District's local budget, which is funded through local revenues. Consistent with the principle of home rule, it is the Administration's view that the District's local budget should be authorized to take effect without a separate annual Federal appropriations bill. The Administration will work with Congress and the Mayor to pass legislation to amend the D.C. Home Rule Act to provide the District with local budget autonomy.
SEC. 817. Section 446 of the Home Rule Act (D.C. Official Code sec. 1–204.46) is amended by adding the following at the end of its fourth sentence, before the period ": Provided, That, notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, effective for fiscal year 2013, and for each succeeding fiscal year, during a period in which there is an absence of a federal appropriations act authorizing the expenditure of District of Columbia local funds, the District of Columbia may obligate and expend local funds for programs and activities at the rate set forth in the Budget Request Act adopted by the Council, or a reprogramming adopted pursuant to this section." (Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2012.)
In the absence of voting rights, budget autonomy is an important step toward enfranchising our nation's capital. DC should have control over its local revenues without having to clear that spending through Congress, and those local revenues should not be held hostage in the event of a government shutdown.
As the President himself points out, the Administration must work with Congress and the Mayor to ensure that these statements move from words to actions.
Click here for more information from DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
Yesterday we reported how eager Representative Darrell Issa was to override DC’s home rule when he introduced a bill to mandate new DC hiring practices. Just hours later, he pulled his bill off the markup schedule for his committee, where it had been fast-tracked. DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton:
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) called Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) today to thank him for pulling his bill on District of Columbia hiring practices, after D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown called and assured Issa that the city was moving forward with its own hiring reform legislation. During an affable phone conversation, Norton told Issa that she has long advised members of Congress who have concerns about local D.C. laws to speak directly with the mayor, council chair, or her regarding their concerns rather than to introduce legislation, and that she hopes that other Members will follow Issa’s example in this case of working directly with the city to address their concerns.
We must still remain vigilant in the House, because as Delegate Norton points out:
The current House Republican majority has been less open to working with the District and instead has moved aggressively on anti-home-rule legislation.
Last month, PFAW strongly encouraged the Senate Appropriations Committee to approve a clean DC appropriations bill. Now the fight continues in the Senate, where this week we expect the consideration of a “minibus” appropriations package including DC.
DC residents and their elected officials should be the ones who determine what is best for their city, without the meddling of a Congress in which they have no vote. For a party that claims to be focused on getting the federal government out of people’s lives, many Republicans have been astoundingly eager to override DC’s home rule.
On the House side, Representative Darrell Issa is showing how eager he is to do just that. Representative Issa has introduced a bill to mandate new DC hiring practices, and he’ll mark up that bill in his committee on Thursday morning.
Seriousness of recent DC scandals aside, Representative Issa fails to recognize that this is a DC problem, one that DC itself is already investigating through the city council, the Office of Campaign Finance, and the US Attorney. DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton:
The bill represents a significant escalation of Republicans’ relentless attacks this Congress on the District’s right to self-government . . . [It] will not pass the committee quietly, and if it makes it to the House floor, we will make it very clear that Republicans, who profess to support local control of local matters, are focused on partisan, ideological fights, not addressing Americans’ top priority: jobs.