But this very momentum on Capitol Hill is the reason some D.C. officials and Congressional allies feel the D.C. Council's move is ill-advised. While advocates say the referendum approach would not detract from efforts in Congress, critics think it could send the wrong message about the District's appreciation for the lawmakers who have expended political capital to help it. There are also concerns that the referendum could be challenged in court, ultimately making the exercise somewhat futile.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D), who has been working hard to forge good relationships with Congressional lawmakers on the budget autonomy front, has not released a statement on the Council's new strategy.
Norton has also not offered a formal endorsement of the plan, saying it could very well run afoul of the law based on legal analyses and suggesting that she will continue to lobby for budget autonomy on Capitol Hill. A spokesman did, however, clarify Wednesday that Norton "hopes and expects D.C. residents to join her in voting 'yes' for budget autonomy when the issue appears on the ballot."
As for House Republicans who, through aides, have said in the past few days that they don't think it will be helpful for D.C. to explore its own path toward budget autonomy, Serrano suggested that "maybe they don't want the Council to pass a clean budget autonomy bill that doesn't have riders."
According to DC Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka, Serrano's statement in support of the referendum strategy came as a welcome surprise. DC Vote and DC Appleseed were two of the strong forces behind orchestrating Tuesday's introduction of the bill authorizing the referendum.
"His statement was powerful in that he recognized that the people of the District of Columbia have the right to move forward on the referendum on budget autonomy, and that they have rights under the Home Rule Charter," Zherka said of Serrano. "In his position of leadership on a Capitol Hill subcommittee, that kind of statement is very important and I think people are going to pay attention."
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.