City Desk

Feds to D.C.: Drop Dead

Government Shutdown Averted, Budget Deal Bad for D.C.

The good news: Libraries and rec centers around the District are open today. The bad news: Congress is, once again, back in the "let's tell D.C. exactly what it can and can't do with its local tax revenue!" game.

Late last night, House Republicans, Senate Democrats, and the White House finally found an arbitrary number of billions of dollars that they could all agree to cut from the federal budget this fiscal year in order to keep it operating. Which meant D.C.'s government, treated for federal accounting purposes like any other agency of the U.S. government, also stays open. All the national pols around town congratulated themselves extensively last night for having gotten the best deal out of their adversaries that they could have.

Part of the price of getting the deal, though, was allowing a House-passed "policy rider" barring D.C. from using even locally raised revenue—like, the money you pay in sales taxes, D.C. income taxes, or fees for parking and other services—to allow the city's Medicaid program to cover abortions. (Another rider, continuing the "Opportunity Scholarship Program" that gives federal money to some kids to go to Catholic schools and achieves mixed results, also remained in the bill.) There could be another local restriction, too: Around midnight, a senior House Republican source told City Desk it wasn't clear whether another House-passed rider, which would have banned D.C. from using local funds to operate a needle exchange program for IV drug users—which could help cut the District's abysmally high HIV infection rate—was part of the deal or not.

Which basically settles the question a lot of Washingtonians had about the new GOP House coming in: Would they stay true to their Tea Party-inspired rhetoric, and leave us alone the way they want the federal government to leave everyone alone? In retrospect, the answer was always obvious. So we'll ask the same question we asked yesterday, when the shutdown was still a possibility: Canada, you want a southern outpost? Mer du mer, including the Anacostia!

Photo by Rob Pongsajapan via Wikimedia Commons

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  • Reality Check

    Dems could have passed this budget in 2010, when they had nearly-complete control of the process. Instead, they punted.

    AND, Dems and GOP are equally to blame for the riders that meddle in District affairs. Dems in the Senate vote for the budget, Obama signs it.

    The riders might be the product of GOP social crusaders, but it takes Dem capitulation to put them into law.

    When District residents stop seeing voting rights, home rule and local budget autonomy as a partisan issue in which Dems are the good guys, maybe District residents will find a path toward achieving these goals.

    Throughout 2009 and 2010 Dems had a filibuster-proof caucus in the Senate, a solid majority in the House and Obama in the Oval Office.

    Did DC get statehood or a full vote in the House?

  • Just the facts, ma’am

    Where the hell was Eleanor Holmes Norton from 2009-2010 when Dems controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House?

    Why couldn't she get through a measure to allow DC budget autonomy so that a government shutdown wouldn't mean garbage collection would stop?

    And - to be fair - why didn't Mayor Fenty and Council Chair Gray call her out on that?

    Our elected officials were asleep at the switch on this one.

    If EHN couldn't even get us permission to collect our own garbage with our own tax dollars, it's time to toss her out with that garbage.

    This ain't kabuki theater, folks. It's real live. And it's time for her to take responsibility for her failures and retire.

  • Ward Cl3aver

    Taxation & Subjugation without Representation.

  • Not quite

    Not quite. In 2009 and 2010, Democrats had almost enough votes in the Senate to have a filibuster proof majority. Unfortunately, there were 2-4 Senators that are very conservative Democrats or willing to otherwise vote with Republicans, and that meant the Democrats filibuster proof majority on paper required watering down bills in practice to get the votes.

    The defections of 2-4 Democrats was enough to stop Democrats from being to pass a budget or get the DC budgetary autonomy. This wasn't a failure of the Democratic Party en masse or Eleanor Holmes Norton-this was a failure of the Senate. The Republicans broke the Senate by using the filibuster more times than in any other Senate. There was nothing EHN could have done about it.

  • Alfred

    It doesn't take Belshazzar to see the writing on the wall...this is a clear indicator that home rule is about to be suspended.

  • SW

    If #1 doesn't give a shit about the District (which he doesn't, can't even bother to have the fucking Taxation plates on his rides), EHN is nothing more than a figurehead on the national level. I'm not saying your wrong but EHN is fighting other battles other than statehood, for better or worse.

  • briefly

    Given the antics of our mayor and council chair I think its clear we would benefit from more congressional involvement in DC affairs. We are ruled by ignorant children, and I don't think congressional involvement could make things much worse. Also, we had our chance at a congressional vote and we denied it to maintain our farcical gun laws, farcical as I hear gunfire most nights. Again, the choices of ignorant children, not real leaders.

    Please, more congressional involvement, not less.

  • Dingus Khan

    Vince Gray and his cronies have given the republicans all the ammo they need to f$*k DC where the sun don't shine for the foreseeable future. Be lee dat.