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DC Vote Renews Push For Budget Autonomy On Capitol Hill

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D.C. Vote activists took to Capitol Hill Tuesday to renew the fight for budget autonomy in the District.
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D.C. Vote activists took to Capitol Hill Tuesday to renew the fight for budget autonomy in the District.

Dozens of D.C. activists stormed the Capitol Tuesday, knocking on the doors of congressional offices, asking lawmakers to give the District more control over its budget.

Budget autonomy is a topic that James Jones of DC Vote says the group had to spend some time flushing out: "Budget autonomy isn't something that everybody studies or knows about, and actually, we've had a very good response in terms of people understanding what we are looking for, which is very positive."

Currently the District's budget is tied to the federal government's budget, which means if the federal government ever shuts down, so too will the D.C. government. With a divided Congress, the fear of a shutdown still hangs over budget negotiations, which has lawmakers in both parties pushing to give the city control over its budget. Jones says he sees momentum growing for his cause.

"The threat of budget shutdown and the fact that we came close to budget shutdown twice really did help energize this effort," says Jones. "Because people saw, like, 'Oh, wait a minute, the District actually is going to be shutdown. There are certain services that won't be provided, and we don't know what that's going to mean for the federal government.' So I think that did provide momentum."

An earlier attempt to give the city budget autonomy unraveled because of a provision banning the use of District funds to pay for abortions for low-income women, but that rider is unlikely to be included in a new Senate version of the legislation.

Jones says city officials are working with House leaders behind the scenes to try and keep the abortion provision out of autonomy legislation. All the talk has him optimistic that it could actually come to fruition.

"We think there is a lot of momentum for this," says Jones. "It's not just a discussion that's a philosophical discussion. We really think that something is going to happen."

The new Senate version of the legislation is being crafted by Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman, but it still unclear when it will be officially introduced.

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