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Advocates for Washington, D.C., voting rights said they visited the offices of every Senator on Tuesday, urging Members not to use the District as a bargaining chip in budget negotiations between the two chambers.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), meanwhile, sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to help keep social riders out of the fiscal 2011 continuing resolution.
“If any D.C. riders are included in the CR, that acquiescence by Democrats will make it nearly impossible to argue that they should be kept out of the fiscal year 2012 and fiscal year 2013 spending bills,” Norton wrote.
Negotiators have been publicly silent that any such deal is in the works. But DC Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka said the groups are ramping up their efforts after press reports and “frank conversations” with GOP staffers, who told him there is a possibility that a deal could be struck whereby Republicans allow Planned Parenthood funding while Democrats concede restrictions on abortion funding in the District.
“There’s rumors out there that those negotiations, or that talk has already begun,” Zherka said. “The District is oftentimes a bargaining chip in this way and it’s often thrown under the bus.”
The House-passed spending bill included a provision banning the District from spending local money on abortions.
By midday, Zherka said he had met with several offices and had spoken with one Senator in person: Frank Lautenberg, chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. Zherka said he secured the New Jersey Democrat’s support.
“He supported having a clean D.C. budget bill and promised he would fight efforts to impose riders on appropriations bills,” Zherka said.
And though some Republican Senate staffers said they oppose DC Vote’s mission, Zherka said after meeting with staff for Sen. Susan Collins that he hopes he can sway the moderate Maine Republican.
“We didn’t get assurances from them, but we do expect Sen. Collins to support a clean D.C. budget bill,” he said.
Keep the Electronic Sunlight
The Sunlight Foundation sent a letter to Congressional leaders and appropriators Monday asking them not to cut a pool of money used to fund electronic records websites.
The House-passed continuing resolution would drain the $34 million Electronic Government Fund to $2 million. The money is used to maintain Data.gov, USASpending.gov, the IT Dashboard and other data transparency programs that the Sunlight Foundation uses to compile detailed records of government spending.
“We’re very concerned with what we’re hearing now that these funds are on the chopping block,” said Daniel Schuman, the group’s policy counsel. “The consequences would be dramatic.”
Schuman said $34 million is a small amount of money compared to the value these programs bring in terms of transparency. The Republicans “definitely do seem to care about these issues, which is why it’s surprising that the budget that passed the House would contain cuts to these vital programs,” Schuman said.
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