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This summer, the District is continuing to seek more budget autonomy, but this week Congress seems to be sending mixed messages back to Washingtonians. Rep. Darrell Issa proposed a bill that would give the District more control of its budget in certain circumstances, but a different House spending bill would continue to restrict D.C. funding for some city programs, including those that fund abortion. Meanwhile, the fate of a referendum passed by D.C. voters to create a local budget clear of congressional oversight is still uncertain. David Hawkings of the Hawkings Here column for Roll Call has some of the details.
On how significant of a step Rep. Issa's bill is for supporters of D.C. budget autonomy:
"I would say this is the biggest deal of the three things that you've mentioned so far. Chairman Issa put this on his committee's agenda as somewhat of a surprise. It was announced the morning of the weekly meeting of his committee. It went through on a voice vote. Not a single Democrat opposed it. That is a very good sign that he can get this through passage on the house floor relatively quickly. And if the Republicans and Democrats of the House agree on anything with such ease in the House, that's as good a sign as any that things will go through the Senate."
D.C. voters passed a referendum few months ago to amend the Home Rule charter so the city doesn't need congressional approval before spending tax dollars. The House passed a bill calling that referendum the opinion of residents only. On where it stands in the Senate version of the bill:
"That language is not as legally binding as if it were in the bill... that bill is also part of the train wreck that's coming on congressional spending. We're not looking at government shutdown scenarios... that is probably moving less fast than the Issa bill."
On when/if the referendum might become law:
"We often don't know what the House is going to take up until the week before. It's not on the schedule for next week that I've seen. I would say that Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, while she hasn't opposed this bill, she has not quite blessed it."
On whether we'll see more budget autonomy for D.C.:
"I think one way or another, the Republicans are ready to lift the restrictions on how the District spends its own locally raised money."