DC delegate calls for budget autonomy, statehood

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) used the 40th anniversary of the enactment of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act to call for budget autonomy, voting rights and statehood for D.C.

“As the continuous and unrelenting Republican attacks on D.C. home rule demonstrate, statehood must be our ultimate goal,” Norton said Tuesday.

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She said the flaws in the Home Rule Act are serious because the city is still open to “attacks” on its self-governance every year. Norton used the example of bills this year aimed at permanently prohibiting D.C. from spending its local funds on abortion services for low-income women and a bill to prohibit most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

“These are unnecessary fights that blithely ignore the self-governance granted by the Home Rule Act,” Norton said.  “For the political indulgence of a few members, Congress wastes time that should be devoted to the pressing issues in our country.”

The District of Columbia Home Rule Act was first passed on Christmas Eve in 1973. The legislation allowed D.C. to set up its own local government. But Congress still has jurisdiction over D.C. and authority over its budget.

Norton used the recent government shutdown as an example for why D.C. should have budget autonomy, saying D.C. has proven to be more fiscally responsible than the federal government this year.

“This year, D.C. for the first time refused to shut down when the federal government closed and was not made subject to another short-term continuing resolution, but is now spending its local funds for the entire fiscal year, while federal agencies are spending under a temporary continuing resolution only until Jan. 15,” Norton said.

This year, Congress failed to pass a D.C. appropriations bill and there was no continuing resolution, so D.C. nearly shut down. 

Norton said an easy fix was added to the 2014 Senate Appropriations Committee-passed D.C. Appropriations bill, which contained both a permanent no-shutdown provision and a budget autonomy provision. But it’s unclear if that language would make its way into an omnibus spending plan being drafted now.

Norton also said progress could be made because Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) has promised to hold a hearing on the D.C. statehood bill during 2014.