Feb. 7, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

New Head of D.C. Activist Group Wants to Expand Fight Beyond the Beltway

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo

The chairmen of D.C.’s oversight committees on Capitol Hill continue to be strong advocates for the city. Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced legislation to make “New Columbia” the 51st state. While a long shot, it represents an important gesture of solidarity.

In the House, Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has opted to move the entire D.C. portfolio to the full committee level rather than relegate it to a subcommittee and has a close working relationship with Democratic Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and the District’s mayor, Vincent C. Gray.

And on April 23, D.C. residents will have a chance to vote on whether to amend their charter to give the city control of its own money by unlinking the local budget from the congressional appropriations process. If it succeeds, the grass-roots approach to achieving budget autonomy after a year and a half of stops and starts in Congress would be a watershed moment for D.C. independence from congressional control.

Budget autonomy by referendum, however, is not a done deal. Congress has the authority to overturn the decision if it chooses, through a resolution of disapproval or perhaps via a rider in some must-pass piece of legislation. It could also be challenged in court by those who feel the charter amendment illegally attempts to circumvent Congress’ inherent control over the D.C. budget and violates the law that forbids D.C. from spending funds before they are appropriated, in this case by Congress.

Not yet a full-time member of the DC Vote team, Perry said she would hold off on discussing how she intends to channel gains and confront potential obstacles, and in general she has refrained from talking vision and strategy.

She did suggest she intends to help raise the profile of the District’s struggle for self-determination outside the city and give it new resonance on Capitol Hill.

She’s specifically looking forward to “taking this campaign out of D.C., putting more pressure on Congress and providing an opportunity for even more voices to be heard on a regular basis,” she said.

As for everything else, “I’d love to save that for after April 10.”

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