Will House GOP Revert to Form on D.C.?
||Washington Post (DC)
||Friday, January 28, 2011
Gowdy, a freshman, is the new chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee on health care, District of Columbia, Census and the National Archives. As such, the former prosecutor inherits unofficial titles - "overseer," "overlord," "shadow mayor" - that his predecessors might well have earned. But he said those are words he is not comfortable with.
"I'm going to provide oversight. I'll do it fairly, I'll do it completely, but I'm not interested in being the mayor of the District of Columbia or the overlord or the overseer or whatever else they want to call it," he said Monday during an interview in his office/bedroom.
His predecessor as top Republican on the D.C. subcommittee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), sleeps on a cot in his office and tapes YouTube chats there, driving home that he isn't going to become part of Washington - even if part of his job was overseeing its governance.
Gowdy is striking a careful, humble tone, and whether that might be due to his unfamiliarity with the issues or his background as a federal and local prosecutor, it's clear that he has no intention of following his fellow South Carolinian, John L. McMillan (D), who lorded over the city in the 1960s and '70s.
Make no mistake, Gowdy is a conservative Republican. He is a co-sponsor of the pending abortion bill. On guns, Gowdy believes that federal firearms regulations provide a "sufficent number of safeguards for community safety" and that the District has no need to enact gun laws of its own. On gay marriage, Gowdy believes marriage is between a man and a woman. And on voting rights for the District, he hasn't given it much thought - but you'd best "make your case within the confines of the Constitution" if you want his support.
"I think the District of Columbia is different; it belongs to the United States," he said. "Having said that . . . there's a duality, and I don't expect that within my first three weeks in Congress to fully understand and appreciate and be able to navigate that duality."
Gowdy will also be navigating the broadness of his oversight brief, which has some hopeful that his committee won't be a locus for city meddling. He said that in his early talks with oversight committee staff, he'd hardly spoken about District issues, focusing instead on the vast landscape of health care.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), in a recent interview, expressed the hope of many city leaders - that ascendant conservative ideology would demand respect for local small-d democratic decisions, including the District's.
"For those people who say that the federal government should not inject itself into the affairs of state and local governments, we hope that that's observed," he said.
Gowdy said: "I understand his point. It might be a little more complicated than that."
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