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Darrell Issa Proposes D.C. Budget Power in Exchange for Abortion Funding Ban

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), whose committee has jurisdiction over the District of Columbia, has unveiled draft legislation that would allow D.C. to spend its own money — but not on abortions.

The draft bill, obtained by Roll Call, would free D.C. from being beholden to Congress’ appropriations process. Currently dependent on Capitol Hill lawmakers to vote on spending bills to unleash funds for the District, local officials have had to scramble with each threat of a government shutdown this year.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has called for budget autonomy repeatedly and would, in theory, support legislation to achieve that end.

But the measure proposed by Issa, who chairs the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is likely to draw criticism for including a prohibition on D.C. using taxpayer funds to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or endangerment to the mother’s life.

Issa argues that his legislation should appeal to local officials clamoring for voting rights and, in general, more independence, according to a committee aide.

But without the abortion language, the aide said, the legislation would have dim prospects for passage through a Republican House.

Democrats and local officials were furious earlier this year when President Barack Obama struck a deal with Congressional Republicans to bar D.C. abortion funding in April’s stopgap spending measure.

That provision prompted a protest that led to the arrest of Mayor Vincent Gray and several D.C. Council members.

Issa is hopeful that Norton and local officials will put their desires for increased D.C. self-determination ahead of any distaste they might have with the abortion provision. If they do, the legislation could move through the pipeline fairly quickly, Issa’s aide told Roll Call.

If they will not endorse it, Issa could either scrap the measure or move ahead without their endorsement, the aide continued.

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