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Campus Notebook: D.C. Officials Reject Issa Proposal for Autonomy

With “regret,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and senior district officials on Wednesday rejected Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) proposal to give D.C. budget autonomy.

The plan would give the District of Columbia a level of independence for which officials and residents have been clamoring.

Issa oversees District affairs in his capacity as chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and his draft legislation unveiled Monday contained language that would have prohibited the use of local funding to pay for abortions.

After three days of private deliberations, Norton, Mayor Vincent Gray and Council Chairman Kwame Brown announced Wednesday that they would not accept the deal.

“We appreciate … [Issa’s] commitment … to work with us on legislation to give the District more control over its local budget,” they said in a joint statement, “and we particularly appreciate that he followed through with a proposed bill.”

“Particularly considering the many good provisions in Chairman Issa’s bill, we regret that we cannot accept it, and would have to strongly oppose it if it were introduced,” the statement continued.

Issa said a bill giving D.C. more autonomy could pass the House only with a provision prohibiting the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortions in D.C.

Norton, Gray and Brown suggested in their statement that they recognized this reality, and they were not willing to accept such a stipulation as a “bargaining chip” for expanded authority.

Gray was among the dozens arrested in April as part of a protest against D.C. policy riders in Congress’ short-term spending deal.

Issa spokesman Frederick Hill indicated Monday that while the lawmaker hoped Norton and other local officials would support the draft measure, he might opt to proceed without their endorsements.

On Wednesday, Hill said Issa “will continue to work with them on this and other issues affecting our nation’s capital” but that “the next steps have yet to be determined.”

It was not clear Wednesday whether or in what form the bill would be considered this morning — it is listed on the docket of legislation to be considered at an Oversight and Government Reform Committee markup.

Despite the unknowns, DC Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka is urging supporters to call Issa’s office and attend the markup to make their opposition known.

“Let Rep. Issa and Congress know that D.C. will not stand by while our rights are trampled on!” Zherka wrote.

CVC Has Brief Evacuation

Construction work might have been the reason behind the fire alarm Wednesday morning in the Capitol Visitor Center that prompted a partial evacuation of the building.

Shortly after 9:30 a.m., Capitol Police issued a campus-wide email reporting an “audible alarm” in the CVC and instructed visitors and staff to evacuate immediately.

Tunnels connecting House and Senate office buildings to the Capitol were temporarily closed off, and officers guarded certain entrances.

But Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said a little before 10:30 a.m. that the CVC was reopening to staffers first, then to the public.

Schneider told Roll Call that while the alarm led to evacuation orders, there were “no signs of smoke, fire, etc.”

She added that an initial investigation indicated that construction work at the site might have set off the alarm.

The Architect of the Capitol’s spokeswoman did not return requests for comment by press time regarding what construction work might have caused the disruption.

However, a Capitol Police officer told Roll Call that the alarm was triggered when stonemasons were steam cleaning the walls of the CVC’s lower level. Steam erroneously entered one of the pull stations containing a fire alarm, which shorted the system, the officer said.

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