A real sense that anti-abortion activists inside and outside Congress could upset efforts to give D.C. budget control led Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the D.C.-focused House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to introduce a bill last November that banned local money for abortions.
At that time, Norton, Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D) reluctantly said they could not support Issa’s proposal based on that language, and Issa promised to go back to the drawing board to work out a compromise.
Last week, Issa told Roll Call that he continued to meet with councilmembers to seek their input and that he was talking logistics with Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), the chairwoman of the Appropriations subcommittee that currently oversees D.C.’s budget.
“I am confident that we’ll get there this Congress,” Issa said, but he has not yet indicated when a new bill might be introduced or whether he is still exploring whether D.C. budget autonomy language could be tacked on as an amendment to existing legislation.
Issa also has not said what many fear: that as far as the Republican-led House is concerned, there may not be enough support to pass such a bill without provisions restricting abortion.
In the meantime, local officials are praising the Senators for their legislation.
“Sens. Lieberman, Collins and Akaka have taken a bold step today by introducing a bill that provides the District of Columbia with the most basic and fundamental freedom of any government – the right to set its own budget,” Gray said in a statement.
“It’s encouraging to see that there is widespread support for budget autonomy in the District of Columbia,” Brown said in a separate statement. “I look forward to working with Congress, the mayor and my colleagues on the Council on a plan that will eliminate federal oversight of the District’s budget and give our city the freedom to decide how to spend our money.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.