Shutdown Fight Makes Strange Bedfellows for Gray and Norton
This afternoon, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a bill over Democratic objections that would appropriate money to keep the District government running during the shutdown. That's as far the bill will go, though. Opposed to "piecemeal" bills that get around the shutdown's effects, the White House says Barack Obama won't sign the bill.
That's awkward for District Democrats like Mayor Vince Gray and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton. They want the District to be able to spend its own money—the contingency fund that's keeping the city open is expected to last only through Oct. 13, though the White House could allow D.C. to remain operational by considering all its workers essential—but supporting the bill means siding with the Republicans. In an anguished speech on the House floor yesterday, Norton complained that the shutdown puts her in "an impossible position."
"I understand the resentment on my side to what is being done here, but carry out your resentment without putting us in the position of a thing—nothing but another piece of appropriation that you have something to do with," Norton told her Democratic colleagues.
For Norton, siding with Republicans doesn't just mean working with Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (who told the House yesterday that Gray "deserves to have his funds—overseen, because it is a federal city? Yes. But kidnapped? No."). It also means opposing Democrats like Rep. José Serrano, who took the floor yesterday to oppose the appropriations bill. It's a marked difference from Serrano's normal support of the District, which has been enough to get him honored by DC Vote as a "champion of democracy."
At a press conference today, Gray said that being pushed between Democrats like Serrano and Republicans like Issa had made him feel like a pawn. "It doesn't even feel like a chess game," he said. "A chess game has a certain intellectual quality about it."
Photo by Darrow Montgomery