Norton tries to shield D.C. from shutdown in case of impasse

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has submitted a bill for introduction in the House and Senate to prevent the local government of the District of Columbia from closing if the government shuts down after March 4.

In an interview, she said it was a shocking experience when the District closed down during a 1995 shutdown; all non-essential city employees were sent home, though police and firefighters remained on the job.

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Norton was able to convince then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) to ensure District funding ahead of a 1996 shutdown.

Norton said she is not introducing the bill because she thinks a government shutdown is probable, but she is just trying to be prepared.

“I am doing the same thing the federal government is doing, preparing for a possible shutdown,” she said. “I cannot believe there will be shutdown.”

She suggested it will be Republicans that will bear the brunt of the blame if a shutdown occurs, and that she believes Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) understands this.

“I am encouraged that that he has begun to negotiate,” she said. “He has put out a proposal that is unacceptable to Democrats but at least they are negotiating.”

House Republicans and Senate Democrats will have to agree on a new spending bill by March 4 or so-called nonessential parts of the federal government will shut down.

“We are sure there is no congressional intention to close down the District’s local government because of congressional disagreement over the federal budget," Norton said in a statement. "In fact, most Members are completely unaware that the District would have to close if the federal government closes,”

“We are also looking into other ways that the District might remain open in the event of a federal government shutdown. This is not the District’s fight, and there is nothing the District could do to resolve a disagreement over federal spending,” she added.

The District is administered by the federal government under the Constitution, but Congress granted limited home rule to the District in 1973. Laws passed by the city council and mayor are subject to congressional review, and its spending must be approved by Congress.