Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has been fighting for budget autonomy for Washington, D.C. for years. Now the D.C. Council is poised to try gaining financial independence another way.
As chairman of the D.C.-focused Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has championed the issue and promised to pursue other avenues to help the District achieve more autonomy across the board. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has praised Issa for his efforts, even though he has been unable to deliver a rider-free budget autonomy measure and voted a few months ago on a bill that would have restricted abortions after 20 weeks in the District of Columbia.
It's not clear what effect the referendum might have on Issa's willingness to continue supporting autonomy legislation, especially if he continues to serve as chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the 113th Congress.
Issa's spokesman would not say how the chairman felt about the new developments and what effect it might have going forward. A spokesman for Norton, who might feel slighted in her own efforts to mobilize support on Capitol Hill and work with Issa and other influential lawmakers, also declined to comment.
But Ilir Zherka and Walter Smith, executive directors of DC Vote and D.C. Appleseed, respectively, emphasized that while pursuing the referendum was clearly an acknowledgement that things weren't working out the way they would prefer in Congress, it's not a signal that they don't appreciate Norton's efforts.
"I think it makes sense for the District and for the Council to open up a second track, given that the prospects of legislation passing are not great and difficult, even according to what our allies have said," Zherka told Roll Call.
"I think [the referendum] sends a very strong message to Issa that we support D.C. budget autonomy," he said.