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Successful D.C. Budget Referendum Sparks Conversation On Capitol Hill

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Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has been pushing for D.C. budget autonomy in Congress for several years.
Markette Smith
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has been pushing for D.C. budget autonomy in Congress for several years.

D.C. Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton says the overwhelming approval of a budget autonomy referendum by D.C. voters has led to new talks on Capitol Hill about a bill that would accomplish the same thing.

The charter amendment approved by voters Tuesday would allow the city government to spend local tax dollars without congressional approval. Proponents say it's a way to free the District's budget from maneuvering on Capitol Hill.

In order to invalidate the referendum, Congress would need to pass a disapproval resolution and President Obama would have to sign it. This is seen as unlikely, since both the White House and Senate Democrats support greater independence for the District government.

But there are questions about whether the charter amendment is legal, because it takes power away from Congress. D.C. Attorney General Irvin Nathan, for example, questioned the City Council's decision to back the referendum.

Norton, a Democrat who represents the District in Congress, says she's seen no push so far to invalidate the referendum. Instead, she says the measure has led to "more robust discussions about congressional action on budget autonomy.''

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