Aug. 20, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Lack of Consensus Among District Advocates as D.C. Government Shutdown Looms

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Norton wants House and Senate leaders to approve a bill that would authorize the District to continue spending local funds in the event of a government shutdown.

Local activists worry that the inclusion of language to defund Obamacare in the continuing resolution endorsed Friday by the House makes it increasingly likely that D.C. will be caught in a government shutdown after Sept. 30, but there’s no clear consensus on how to alleviate the threat.

As the clocked ticked down to a House vote on the spending deal Friday morning, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., warned her colleagues that “the only thing worse than closing down the United States government is closing down an innocent bystander without a dime in this fight.”

Norton is pushing for leaders in the House and Senate to approve a bill that would authorize the District, beginning in fiscal 2014, to continue spending local funds in the event of a government shutdown.

Without those funds, Norton said basic municipal services would shut down and the District could be forced to default on its financial agreements.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the D.C.-focused House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is hoping he can muster Democratic support for his own budget autonomy proposal as a solution to the looming threat.

Introduced in late July and quickly approved by committee in a voice vote, it lets the District set its own fiscal calendar and spend locally raised tax dollars without first getting congressional permission, but it would also subject D.C.’s budget to policy riders. Republicans have routinely added restrictions on needle exchanges and spending on abortion to the city’s spending bill.

“It’s limited; it’s not full budget autonomy, but it does allow in the case of a shutdown clearly for the District to spend their own funds and it also allows for them to make [plans] that could allow them to plan a whole school year around a different fiscal year,” Issa said Friday.

Issa told CQ Roll Call he does not believe he has enough support among Democrats — including Norton and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer — to bring his proposal to the floor.

Norton, who also sits on the Oversight panel, said in July that her final backing is “conditioned on an agreement yet to be reached on the final language of the bill,” signaling that policy riders could be an issue.

If Democrats won’t come on board, Issa suggested a stop-gap measure could be another solution for the District.

Earlier this week, Norton tried that approach with an amendment to the continuing resolution that would have allowed D.C. to spend its local funds for all of fiscal 2014, but it was rejected Wednesday by the Rules Committee.

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