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Norton, Gray Fight Back Against D.C. Appropriations Riders

Mayor Vince Gray and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton warned Wednesday that Members who place social riders on Washington, D.C.’s appropriations bill would face political heat back home.

In an attempt to ward off such provisions — including those on gun laws, abortion and gay marriage — before next week’s bill markup, Gray and Norton advised colleagues that national advocacy groups stood ready to fight in districts across the country.

Although no Members have said that they will introduce riders on the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, which appropriates money for the District, Norton said she is certain somebody will come forward.

“Every once in a while you have some Member who has it in his craw,” the D.C. Democrat said in an interview. “But normally you can’t particularly tell” who it will be, she added.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government is scheduled to mark up the bill June 16.

At a news conference in the Capitol, Norton, Gray and representatives from DC Vote and other advocacy groups urged Congress not to reinstitute policies in D.C. that would restrict syringe-exchange programs, abortion providers, gay marriage and the District’s ability to write gun laws.

“We did not clear the D.C. appropriations bills of all D.C. riders for the first time ever simply to turn around and let them come back on,” Norton said at the news conference. “Congress should expect resistance where they live if Congress targets our low-income women and our same-sex couples. And Congress should be on notice that our gun laws and our needle-exchange programs may be ideological trophies to them, but they are life and death to us.”

Norton warned that groups such as AIDS United, the Human Rights Campaign, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and NARAL Pro-Choice America would target Members who try to attach riders to the appropriations bill.

“I can guarantee you this, that even without announcement they will come,” Norton said of her Congressional opponents. “The only difference between now and before is we’re not waiting for them to come. We’re coming first, and we’re not coming to them; we’re coming to their districts where they live, to speak with their constituents.”

DC Vote released a letter addressed to members of the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee and signed by roughly 100 advocacy groups stating that they “expect Congress to be consistent by letting Washingtonians manage their own affairs without interference or meddling.”

In a brief address, Gray (D) expressed support for abortion rights, gay marriage, needle-exchange programs and gun control.

“Our civil rights are being violated every day by Congress,” he said. “The District of Columbia is not a Congressional toy, and we certainly aren’t a laboratory.”