Local Washington lawmakers are praising House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) for his efforts to give the District more control over its local budget, but they are rejecting his proposed legislation limiting local funding for abortions.
It was a step forward for district advocates who for months battled riders embedded in the FY12 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill including preventing the use of local funds for needle-exchange programs, medical marijuana, marriage equality and gun control.
“Chairman Issa’s commitment, and the bill he presented to us on Monday morning, followed testimony from majority and minority hearing witnesses that was complimentary of the state of D.C.’s budget and finances, and in support of greater budget autonomy for the city,” they wrote.
“The provisions in the Issa bill to allow the District to use a July fiscal year, to allow its budget to take effect without congressional approval, and to avoid District government shutdowns over unrelated federal spending fights demonstrated that the chairman had taken our priorities into account.”
All district riders have been scrapped from the House bill, save one: abortion. The ongoing inclusion of a provision stipulating that the district could not use funds to pay for abortions — except in extreme circumstances including cases of rape, incest or endangerment of the mother’s life — meant district lawmakers are unwilling to sign on to the bill.
“We regret that we cannot accept it, and would have to strongly oppose it if it were introduced,” they wrote.
“We recognize that the abortion provision is what Chairman Issa believed would be necessary to get the bill passed in the House. But the views of others should not prevail over the views of our own residents. Our opposition to the provision to permanently prohibit the District from spending its local funds on abortion services for low-income women is as strong as the views of those outside our city who support it.”
Voting rights group DC Vote also decried the inclusion of the abortion provision.
“Issa proposed a bill on Monday that would give the District greater autonomy over its own budget,” DC Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka said Wednesday in a news release. “But at the same time, his bill would permanently ban the District from spending its own tax dollars on abortions for poor women. This is unacceptable.”
DC Vote also called on its members to get in touch with Issa prior to the scheduled mark-up of the legislation in front of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday.
Issa “is imposing a radical social agenda on D.C. again,” Zherka said. “We need your help to let him know the citizens of D.C. won’t stand by while Congress attempts to dictate the way we spend our own tax dollars.”
Updated at 2:58 p.m.