GOP House Treats Democratic D.C. with Kid Gloves
||Washington Examiner (DC)
||Monday, October 3, 2011
Washingtonians will most likely arise this week to the sound of trash trucks rumbling through their alleys and hoisting super cans. "Most likely" because as I write on Monday, Congress still has yet to agree on a temporary resolution to fund the federal government and thereby the District, since we are technically a division. No budget resolution, and the D.C. government shuts down. By Tuesday, the warring Democrats and Republicans are supposed to sign the temporary law, and our trash should get picked up, our schools should open, our bureaucrats should come to work.
Congress cannot seem to agree on much these days, and that might be one reason the District has not been subject to the usual meddling in local affairs, whereby some congressmen toy with D.C. as a cat might bat around a ball of yarn.
"Congress is so screwed up," says one local wag, "that members forgot about screwing with the District."
Lest we forget, Congress can pass laws that affect everything from how the District spends local taxes to abortion counseling to regulation of firearms. The last Congress wanted to end the needle exchange program, bar local funds for abortion counseling and fund school vouchers.
"This year's bill is coming through relatively clean," says D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton. Only the rider about abortion counseling is embedded in the bill headed to the Senate.
Against many expectations -- including from yours truly -- D.C. has done well on Capitol Hill. I figured a House that's tacking rightward toward the Tea Party would smack the local jurisdiction, which is a nest of Democrats. And many of the District's leaders are knee-deep in allegations of corruption. Now would be the time to take back D.C. Not the case.
The special appropriations for programs such as college tuition assistance grants, school construction and reimbursing police for federal activities will likely drop between $29 million, in the proposed Senate bill, and $44 million, which the House recommends, from $152 million this year. But that would still leave D.C. with at least $108 million. Norton has gotten another $121 million to continue developing the new Homeland Security headquarters in Anacostia.
Why has the District been doing so well?
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, the Missouri Republican who heads the District's appropriations subcommittee, "has never been a District basher," Norton says. Nor is freshman Rep. Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who heads the District's authorizing subcommittee.
Civil disobedience helped. When it appeared this spring that Congress was intruding on home rule, DC Vote organized protests, dozens were arrested -- including Mayor Vince Gray and council members -- and allies rallied to the District's cause, among them many unions, the NAACP and the League of Women Voters.
"These groups let members of the appropriations committee know they had been in touch with their members in the members' districts," Norton says. "It took action to make this happen."
In other words, some raw political muscle was applied.
All of this is well and good, but if Congress cannot agree to finance the government on Nov. 18, when the current resolution expires, we won't be hearing any trash trucks the next morning.