Loose Lips

D.C. Council Votes to Override Gray’s Budget Veto

Outgoing Mayor Vince Gray's lame duck administration got a little lamer today. As expected, Gray's Friday veto of the D.C. Council's budget went down in flames this afternoon, with the mayor unable to managing to win a single new councilmember to his side.

The Council voted 12-1 to override Gray's vetoes and stick with the budget formulated by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson. Only Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, who had always been opposed to the budget because of its cuts to streetcar funding, opposed the override vote.

In a statement sent out so quickly after the budget vote that it's clear Gray knew the long odds his veto faced, Gray said that he's "disappointed" that the Council wouldn't work on a "reasonable compromise" budget with him.

In an attempt to sway councilmembers to his side, Gray's veto letter to the Council Friday included a series of warnings about Mendelson's budget, from a crippled streetcar system to a hamstrung future executive branch. Despite Gray's forbodings, though, councilmembers spoke one by one to explain why they weren't won over.

Ward 4 Councilmember and potential next mayor Muriel Bowser rejected Gray's concerns about restrictions on how future mayors could use the contingency cash reserve fund.

Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, meanwhile, said that the budget's purported shortchanging of social welfare services made him dislike much of Mendelson's budget. Still, Graham said, Deputy Mayor Beatriz Otero's flip remark to the Washington Post about raccoons at the D.C. General homeless shelter made him feel he couldn't trust Gray's representatives to negotiate a better budget.

Perhaps the most compelling argument in favor of the veto override—and not delaying the Council's recess for as many as 30 days, as Gray had requested—came from Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans. Even if Gray had the five votes required to hold off the veto override, Evans pointed out, the mayor still wouldn't have the seven votes necessary to push through his own budget.

“We could end up with exactly the same budget because seven of us supported it," Evans said.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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