Loose Lips

Vince Gray Won’t Break the Law to Keep District Open

Mayor Vince Gray will crash a Senate press conference to try to get money for the District during the shutdown. He'll tap the city's rainy day fund. But the one thing he won't do, he said yesterday, is break a law that's never been enforced.

Gray devoted part of his Thursday rally at Friendship Public Charter School to shooting down the idea that he'll spend the city's locally raised money without a congressional appropriation, which would be a violation of the federal Antideficiency Act. But the audience seemed to wish he'd go farther: His explanation of how he could hypothetically break the law got some cheers.

"I don't shrink from anything, all right?" Gray replied.

Breaking the law would undermine the city's moral case for budget autonomy and expose District employees to prosecution, according to the mayor. "I have no problem taking these legal risks myself, but it’s not right for me to put our employees in legal jeopardy," Gray said.

LL isn't convinced. Gray's nightmare situation of city employees sitting in the pen for allocating funds is hard to believe, given that the Antideficiency Act has never been tested and that a Democratic attorney general—who's close with various District officials—might not be all that inclined to prosecute a Home Rule-related violation of it.

Instead, Gray asked audience members to ask the president and members of the Senate to pass an appropriations bill or a District-focused continuing resolution. If the contingency fund runs out next week before the shutdown ends, Gray says he could declare a state of emergency to tap another source of funds.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • chris hauser

    don't we have a billion bucks in reserve?

    is that different than the rainy day fund?

    i'm confused.

  • Sally

    Gray is in over his head trying to get what HE wants for DC but this does not change the law. The mayor looks foolish thinking DC issues are of equal importance to getting the NATIONAL problem of the shutdown and debt celing limit raised. When this is over and Gray gets out of the spotlight will be still be working for changes in the law? There was never an agreement that DC funds if spent to run the government would be reimbursed. Just a hope from arrogant Gray.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AdamLDC Adam L

    @Chris

    The District has a billion dollars set aside in a rainy day fund, but spending that money is illegal until Congress gives the go-ahead. The money the District government has been using to keep operations going comes from contingency funds that were already approved by Congress in a previous authorization.

    There is one more pot of pre-approved money the District could use, the emergency fund that is supposed to be used in case of a natural disaster, terrorist attack, etc. The Mayor could declare a "state of emergency" and gain access to those funds, but even the most fervent home rule supporters would questions whether that is a good idea.

...