Norton Splits With Democrats on D.C. Funding Bill

Posted October 1, 2013 at 7:05pm

Splitting with a majority of her Democratic colleagues in their push for a clean continuing resolution, an exasperated Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., pleaded for votes on one of the GOP’s carve-out bills to fund the District on Tuesday night.

It was to no avail, though, as the House failed to pass the measure under suspension of the rules, falling short on a 265-163 vote.

“Keep the District open,” she begged, sounding on the verge of tears as the House debated a short-term funding bill from Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that handles D.C. The bill would give the city authority to spend its own funds without congressional approval until Dec. 15, while leaving previously approved social policy riders, such as limits on funding for abortion, intact.

Norton said it was “heart-breaking” to hear D.C.’s local budget mentioned in the same breath as other appropriations bills. “You are casting this city precisely where it cannot — just another federal appropriation. This is a living, breathing city.”

She asked, “What would you do if your local budget was here?”

Crenshaw pointed to the necessity of paychecks for school teachers, librarians, police officers and “folks that are picking up the garbage.”

“We shouldn’t penalize the people of the District of Columbia because we can’t come to come sort of conclusion on our spending bills,” he said.

Democrats sympathized with the District’s struggle, but accused the GOP of using the funding bill, one of three debated on Tuesday evening, as part of a political ploy.

“This is a sham,” said Rep. José E. Serrano, D-N.Y., who has built his appropriations career on securing funding for D.C. “It’s one that sells … but it’s still a trick. It’s still a trick to get at Obamacare on the day that it starts to take place all over this country. It’s still a trick to keep the government closed.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., a leading proponent of District budget autonomy, urged his colleagues not to hold the city hostage in its budget fight.

“I will whip every Republican to vote ‘yes’ on this bill,” he vowed.

The bill was proposed hours after Mayor Vincent Gray and the D.C. Council finalized their rogue plan to tap the city’s contingency funds in order to keep the District operating at full capacity during a shutdown.

“Cobbling together a piecemeal approach of his own,” Norton said, reminding her colleagues that the solution would be short-lived. Contingency funds can only cover the biweekly $98-million payroll for roughly 32,000 employees for a few weeks. “When it does, my friends, guess what happens?”