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D.C.'s Budget Autonomy On The Table, Thanks To House Republican

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Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Ca.) meets with D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray at the May 12 hearing on the city's finances.
Patrick Madden
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Ca.) meets with D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray at the May 12 hearing on the city's finances.

The two sides not only held a cordial, complimentary hearing but even promised to work together to bring D.C. more budget autonomy.

No, the room didn't break out into "Kumbaya." But given all that has transpired in the past month or so -- the nearly weekly protests and arrests on Capitol Hill by city activists after the federal budget deal, and Republicans' insistence on attaching riders that roll back D.C.'s autonomy -- city leaders and federal lawmakers promising to look at giving the city more control over its budget is surprising.

That the plan came from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the Republican in charge of the oversight committee and the same lawmaker who has conducted an investigation into the hiring scandals at D.C. city hall, was even more unexpected.

Issa is proposing to change how Congress signs off on D.C.'s budget. He says it would not only help keep D.C. running during a federal government shutdown -- such as the one that loomed prior to a budget deal last month -- but also streamline the budget process so the city could, like every other state in the country, schedule its fiscal year around the school year.

While he's not in favor of full budget autonomy for D.C., Issa says having the city's budget completely dependent on congress isn't ideal either.

"I don't ever want the question of whether kids can go to school in the District to be dependent on what we did last year," says Issa.

Issa says he would like to see Congress pass a contingency budget for D.C. in early January every year that would let the city spend its local dollars and then come back later in the year to sign off on the federal appropriations.

CORRECTION: The original version of this post misstated Rep. Issa's actions on the controversy surrounding D.C. government hiring practices. Issa has conducted an investigation, but has not called for a Congressional hearing.

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