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Issa Says He'll Try to Include D.C. Budget Autonomy in CR

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Issa said he is working on a way to include budget autonomy for the District in the next continuing resolution to fund the government.

But assuming the next spending bill does contain new line items and provisions, and assuming that Issa is able to get the necessary consensus to shepherd budget autonomy language through in this upcoming legislative vehicle, it is unclear what would happen with the budget autonomy charter referendum that is set to appear on the April 23 D.C. special election ballot.

The D.C. Council voted unanimously late last year to allow voters to amend the city charter to give itself control of its own money. Last month, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics cleared the referendum, championed by local activists, for inclusion on the April 23 ballots.

Advocates say that the grass-roots effort is meant to supplement, not replace, efforts on Capitol Hill to get budget autonomy for the District. They also say, however, that the chances of passing a policy rider-free bill through Congress are growing increasingly dim, and that the Home Rule Charter has no explicit ban on residents giving themselves budget control.

Others, including Issa, Norton, Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, are concerned about whether the charter referendum is even legal.

If passed, they say, the charter amendment would more than likely be challenged in court for illegally attempting to circumvent Congress’s inherent control over the D.C. budget, as well as running afoul of the Antideficiency Act that forbids federal entities, such as the federal city of D.C., from spending funds before they are appropriated, in this case by Congress.

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