House passes funding bill for DC government

The House on Wednesday passed legislation that would fund the District of Columbia's government as it sought to force the Senate into accepting a piecemeal approach to reopening the government. 

Members passed the resolution, H.J.Res. 71, in a surprise voice vote after a debate in which Democrats said they would oppose all piecemeal spending bills from Republicans.

Several Democrats said that plan allows Republicans to pick and choose which portions of the government to spare from the shutdown when Congress should be ending the shutdown entirely.

The vote came after the House failed to approve the same resolution under a suspension of House rules on Tuesday. That required a two-thirds vote, and it failed 265-163, even though 34 Democrats supported it.

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Tuesday's voice vote allowed Democrats to avoid a formal vote that would have forced them to choose between supporting the District or opposing Republicans.

Republicans said they were surprised so many Democrats voted against the bill, because the legislation is meant to give the District of Columbia access to funds that it has raised on its own. The District must have its budget approved by Congress, even though it raises its own money and does not rely on other appropriations.

"I don't understand why so many of our friends on the other side of the aisle voted 'no' yesterday, because all it does is allow the District of Columbia to spend its own money," Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) said.

As they did last night, Democrats said that while they support funding for the District, they cannot accept the GOP strategy of passing small spending bills. Anger over the GOP plan led Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) to say he has never seen the House in such disarray.

"I've never seen such small-minded, miserable behavior in this House of Representatives, and such a disregard of our responsibilities to the people," he said. "The American people could get better government out of monkey island in the local zoo than we're getting ... today."

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) again called on her colleagues to support the legislation, and said the District should not be caught up in the fight over federal spending.

"If the game plan is to keep this going until the debt ceiling, in the middle of the month, please don't," she said. "Each day that without an agreement is punishing millions of Americans and every single D.C. resident."