Federal spending bill is mixed bag for funding of D.C. priorities
||Washington Post (DC)
||Friday, December 16, 2011
||Mike DeBonis and Jimm Phillips
District affairs emerged relatively unscathed in the federal spending deal expected to be passed as early as Saturday by Congress. But a restriction on the funding of abortions for low-income D.C. residents will remain, which prompted a noontime Capitol Hill protest.
About two dozen protesters stood in the eastbound lanes of Independence Avenue in front of the Longworth House Office Building, blocking traffic and forcing motorists to veer into the westbound lanes. U.S. Capitol Police officers arrested four protesters who remained in the road after repeated warnings.
The group chanted, among other things, “These D.C. riders have got to go.”
Still, the bill’s riders, or mandated spending restrictions, did not include any significant provisions that had not previously existed.
The ban on local abortion funding was reimposed as part of an April budget deal; it had previously been attached to budgets from 1996 to 2009. Restrictions also remain on using federal money to implement the District’s medical marijuana and needle-exchange program, but the city is free to use its $6 billion in locally raised revenue to do so.
The District’s nonvoting delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), said in a speech on the House floor that D.C. residents “have much to be grateful for.” She said congressional Republicans had proposed provisions that would end gay marriages in the District and eliminate most of its gun laws, but they were not included in the final deal.
Norton, who picketed briefly Friday, credited a recent spate of protests with beating back those efforts, saying that D.C. residents were “justifiably angry” that Congress would dictate how the city can spend its money.
“We will never go away quietly so long as you treat the residents of the District of Columbia as second-class citizens,” she said.
The four protesters arrested Friday were charged with blocking a passage on the Capitol grounds, a Capitol Police spokeswoman said. They included Adrian Parsons, 29, who is one of four activists who began a hunger strike for District autonomy Dec. 8.
Parsons was sent to George Washington University Hospital after he was examined by medical personnel while in custody, said fellow arrestee James Jones, a spokesman for DC Vote, which organized the rally. The other protesters were released shortly after 5 p.m.
While the status quo held on riders, the spending bill was a mixed bag for the funding of city priorities.