House Republicans unveiled what they’re calling a “clean” continuing resolution on Tuesday night, to the delight of budget autonomy advocates in the District of Columbia.
Two divisive provisions in the House-passed spending bill that opponents said intruded on D.C.’s right to Home Rule were left out of the legislation that would keep the government functioning through Dec. 11. One is a marijuana-related amendment adopted in June by the House Appropriations Committee. It was proposed by Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., who was seeking to block the District from implementing a local law to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of pot. Decriminalization took effect in the city a few weeks later, despite Harris’ concern that it could lead to increased abuse of the drug among teens.
The other is a pro-gun amendment from Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., that was attached to the District’s funding bill on the House floor. City officials, including Mayor Vincent Gray and Metropolitan Police Department leaders, came to Capitol Hill to decry the effort to dismantle D.C.’s gun control laws, warning it would make the city perhaps the most permissive gun jurisdiction in the nation.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said Wednesday that Massie’s amendment insulted the city in two ways.
“Public safety is a quintessential local concern because the public must have the confidence that those they elect will protect them from harm as they alone know it,” Norton said in a release. “Second, the Massie amendment ran roughshod over the Home Rule Act, where Congress recognized the importance of local control by devolving local law-making to the District of Columbia.”
Massie has been glib since news broke of the July 26 ruling in Palmer v. District of Columbia, in which Judge Frederick Scullin Jr. wrote that he was stopping enforcement of D.C.’s ban on carrying handguns in public “unless and until” the city adopted a constitutionally valid licensing mechanism. Local leaders have since been granted a stay as they scramble to plot a new course on gun control.
When budget season kicked off this spring, DC Vote and representatives of abortion-rights groups, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and others joined Norton in warning Congress to stay out of D.C.’s local affairs. They warned that Republicans proposing policy riders might face the wrath of angry constituents who are members of the national organizations.
District advocates notched one victory for budget autonomy in Congress during past year — immunity from federal government shutdown in fiscal 2015. Under a provision enacted in the fiscal 2014 appropriations bill, even if the House and Senate do not pass a CR, the District government will be able to continue to spend its own local funds and will not shut down.
Pending 2015 appropriations bills in the House and Senate include similar language that would allow D.C. to remain open even if the federal government shuts down.
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