City Desk

The Top 5 Worst Congressional Ideas For D.C.

Some possibly good news for abortion rights activists and D.C. autonomy fans alike: The Senate's 2012 budget bill for the District doesn't include a ban on the city using its own money to fund abortions for low-income women.

Earlier this year, the 2011 federal spending plan outlawed the relatively recent program ... and led to Mayor Vincent Gray getting arrested in protest. We'll see if the conservative House agrees to the non-interventionist version of the budget bill; they've had some trouble with that in the past.

Here are just some of Congress's greatest hits (and attempted hits) on D.C. social policy and home rule. Got other suggestions? Leave them in the comments.

  1. Though District voters wanted to start a medical marijuana program, in 1998, Georgia Republican Rep. Bob Barr made it illegal for D.C. officials even to count the votes of a referendum on the issue. (Barr later went on to change his mind and worked to dismantle the amendment, which just shows how arbitrary federal intervention can be.)
  2. Also in 1998, citizen-approved, D.C. tax-funded needle exchange programs were outlawed. For a decade.
  3. In 2005, a year after Ronald Reagan died, Texas Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla decided 16th Street NW should be named "Ronald Reagan Boulevard," even though Reagan couldn't even win D.C.'s three electoral votes in 1984, when he won every state but Minnesota on the way to a second term.
  4. Former Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican who went on to run for president, attempted to institute a flat tax in the city. Why not experiment here, after all—if it goes badly, his constituents would never be affected!
  5. Even before the Supreme Court ordered changes to D.C.'s strict gun control laws, Congress frequently tried to undo them. Now that the laws have been changed, lawmakers haven't stopped. Rep. Louie Gohmert, another Texas Republican, even drafted a bill to let members carry guns on the House floor.

Illustration by Brooke Hatfield

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  • Staci

    #5 - If only C-Span were around when Rep. Preston Brooks (D-SC) beat up Senator Charles Sumner (R-MA) with his cane and Rep. Laurence M. Keitt (D-SC) pulled out his pistol and said "Let them be!"

  • MDE

    How about congress mandating that Metro rename the station at DCA to "Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport." Even MWAA calls it "Reagan National Airport."