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Issa Willing to Open Up D.C. Bill to Plenty of Policy Riders

A bill to provide budget autonomy to the District of Columbia is likely to be considered the next time the Oversight and Government Reform Committee marks up legislation, and Chairman Darrell Issa said he will give lawmakers a chance to add proposals to the measure.

The California Republican had hoped to bring up the bill this morning, when the committee charged with overseeing D.C. affairs had a scheduled markup. Issa unveiled draft legislation Monday that would allow D.C. to determine its own budget independent of Congressional appropriations — provided no local money would fund abortions.

But after reviewing the bill, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown determined Wednesday that it was a bargain they would not strike.

Norton said it would have been the first permanent policy rider in the history of home rule. Such riders have typically been attached to short-term spending deals or yearly appropriations packages as “bargaining chips.”

Issa said he is committed to helping D.C. attain a level of autonomy that local officials have long sought. His new plan is to bring up the bill when the panel meets next either in December or in January.

“Failing to do so will not mean that we will give up on the bill,” Issa said. “We will remain dedicated to this piece of legislation until it becomes law.

He said he would like to deal with the expected onslaught of proposed policy riders by having lawmakers attach their provisions to the legislation prior to the markup. This tactic, Issa hopes, would also avoid surprises at the markup and on the House floor.

“If people have riders on either side, on this committee or within other committees … we look forward to seeing those, hearing those, including them in the bill, and pre-conferencing them to make sure that they are not overly onerous to the district,” he said.

Issa and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) will reach out to chairmen and ranking members of other House panels. “We will go forward based on the assumption that all parties had an opportunity to weigh in on what they believe they have some right to dictate to the city,” Issa said.

Cummings and Norton both expressed gratitude this morning for Issa’s commitment to broadening the District government’s authority and said they were sorry they could not support the bill in its current form.

“When a chairman of either party listens to the District of Columbia the way Chairman Issa listened … [and] comes forward with a plan … it seemed to us that we owed the chairman of this committee our due diligence to look at this proposal, and I am glad we did,” Norton said.

Neither Norton nor Cummings commented on Issa’s plan to allow riders to be discussed at length in advance of the legislation’s formal consideration.

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