Last week the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the FY 2016 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. Included in this legislation is the District of Columbia’s locally-raised tax dollars. This spending bill is also the vehicle certain members of Congress use to introduce “riders” that would impose their fringe ideals on District residents.

This year is an outlier though, because the Senate Appropriations Committee passed their version of the bill with no DC riders. But what does it actually mean? And what happens next?

What does this mean for Congressional attacks on DC Home Rule?

In short: Almost nothing.

While it’s fantastic that Senators didn’t find it necessary to waste time or energy legislating for District residents, the Senate bill is largely status quo. Here’s how the process usually shakes out: 

  1. The House approves its version of the bill – which currently includes numerous DC riders
  2. The  Senate approves its own version of the bill
  3. The House and Senate will conference and create a compromise version of the bill – we anticipate DC riders will be included as part of some grand compromise.
  4. The House and Senate approve this new version of the bill and District residents are yet again stripped of the basic right to self-government.

This year things are likely to work a little differently:

  1. The House refuses to vote on any further appropriations bills until they are done arguing about the confederate flag.
  2. Both the House and Senate take a month long vacation and promise they’ll sort this all out when they get back – mostly likely in the form of another omnibus spending bill.

So what next?

Once Congress is back and well-rested there won’t actually be enough time to pass any legislation before the end of FY2015 on September 30, so they’ll pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government running. The CR simply extends the FY 2015 appropriations language, and so District residents will continue to be stuck with riders blocking us from using local funds on abortion coverage or creating a tax and regulate system for legalized marijuana until a final agreement is reached. 

The CR then buys Congress enough time to create an Omnibus spending bill. If last year’s “CRomnibus” bill has taught us anything, it’s that we can expect every rider that is currently on the table to be included and yet again District residents will be denied basic democracy.

With Republicans now in control of both Houses, it will be up to the White House to negotiate changes to the spending bill. 

We can’t stand for this nonsense another day, and so we need you to start contacting Congress and the White House NOW and tell them to focus on National issues that their constituents are passionate about, and leave the District to govern itself.

Budget Autonomy

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