If the Obama administration accepts Gray’s determination, then all district workers will be free to work during a shutdown and receive pay at a later date.
“I have determined that everything the District government does – protecting the health, safety and welfare of our residents and visitors – is essential,” Gray said in a press release.
“Congress can’t even get its own fiscal house in order; they should be taking lessons from us rather than imposing needless suffering on us,” Gray added.
District officials and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the city’s non-voting delegate to the House, have been pushing legislation that would give the city budget autonomy from Congress and a permanent exemption from any shutdowns.
Norton said she would not second guess Gray's bold move.
"The city is well aware of the legal and political risks of its actions. The fact that the city has felt driven to circumvent the congressional process highlights the need for D.C. to be freed from being embroiled in federal matters and be granted autonomy over its own budget, as is the case of every other state, and other locality and territory in the country," she said.
As part of the federal government, albeit with “home rule,” the District cannot spend money without official congressional approval through the annual appropriations process. Appropriators have through the years used the District to push various social policies
For example, since 2011, the city has been prevented from spending its own funds on abortion services.