OK, Seriously, This Shutdown Stuff Has To Stop
||Tuesday, December 13, 2011
It's like April all over again.
It's Wednesday, and Congress has yet to finalize and vote on an omnibus federal spending plan. You know what that means -- if something isn't done by Friday, the federal government could shut down, taking with it the District's government.
Yesterday, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton warned Mayor Vince Gray of the possibility, saying that that just like it did in April, the city should brace for the chance that money will stop flowing to vital services come Saturday:
Congress has yet to pass nine of the 12 fiscal year 2012 appropriations bills, including the one that approves D.C.’s local budget. If the federal government shuts down on Friday, the D.C. government would shut down, too, because D.C. cannot spend its own local funds without congressional approval. Norton’s pending “District of Columbia Fiscal Year 2012 Local Funds Continuation Act” would prevent a D.C. government shutdown in the event of a federal shutdown by permitting D.C. to spend its local funds for the rest of fiscal year 2012, a bill similar to one Norton introduced in fiscal year 2011. Earlier this year, President Obama requested that the first fiscal year 2012 continuing resolution authorize D.C. to spend its local funds for entire fiscal year. Norton also has a bill, H.R. 980, pending to keep the District open whenever the federal government shuts down in the future.
In April, D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi predicted that any shutdown could cost the District over $1 million a week in lost revenue, not to mention cause any other number of inconveniences for residents.
Now, all of this could be avoided if the District were finally granted budget autonomy. After April's almost-debacle and the subsequent arrest of 41 people -- including Gray and members of the D.C. Council -- during a protest on Capitol Hill, you'd think there would be at least a slight push from Congress to free the city's money. Recently we got close, when Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) proposed a measure that would allow just that, but at the cost of a rider that would prohibit the use of local funds for abortions. (City officials said no thanks.)
Yet again, abortion in D.C. may become the issue upon which a larger compromise on the federal budget is reached. Yesterday, Roll Call's Daniel Newhauser tweeted that the abortion rider was still in the budget proposed by Republicans, but that Democrats were working to remove it. But just like in April, with things coming down to the wire like this, there's a good chance that the District will lose out so that the rest of the federal government is spared.
Maybe the only saving grace of all of this is that Issa may feel compelled to move more quickly on a clean budget autonomy bill. Or we could just find ourselves in this same mess again if Congress passes a continuing resolution, effectively punting on the whole issue a few months.