DC Budget Autonomy Ban Clears House Committee

Measure blocks effort by D.C. officials to exert control over budget

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, left, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, seen here on May 9, have held several news conferences calling on Congress to loosen its grip on the local budget. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A North Carolina Republican's effort to force D.C. officials to get the District's budget approved by Congress will be sent to the House floor after an oversight committee defeated on Tuesday an amendment that would have loosened the federal government's grip on the city's finances.  

A bill sponsored by Rep. Mark Meadows intends to prevent any future efforts by the District to take away congressional approval of the local budget despite a court order and referendum that allows it to do so.  

The House Oversight and Government Reform committee defeated an amendment offered by D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton that would have loosened the congressional grip on the District's purse strings.  

Related: Congress Aims to Keep Hold of D.C. Purse Strings It was the second time in one week that federal lawmakers met to debate the effort, this time sparking discussion of James Madison and The Federalist Papers by both Democrats and Republicans over what the government should control.  

Meadows said he believes D.C. officials and its employees would face penalties if any money was spent without the federal government stepping in .  

“Congress has the authority to settle this issue once and for all," Meadows said.  

He had an ally in fellow Republican Rep. Steve Russell of Oklahoma, who said Washington, D.C. did not belong to the District but to "We the People."  

That remark drew the ire of Holmes Norton, the District's nonvoting representative in Congress and a champion of budget autonomy , who said she resented Russell's remarks.  

“Whatever is your complete authority, you have no complete authority over me, sir, because I live in the District of Columbia,” Norton said.  

Addressing Meadows, Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerald E. Connolly said so much congressional authority over the District and its practices was "intrusive" and "patronizing."  

“I would respectfully suggest the folks in North Carolina would no more welcome this kind of congressional intrusion than to the people here in the District of Columbia," Connolly said.  

Related: What a Long, Strange Case: D.C. Budget Autonomy District officials derided what they saw as a political power play by Congress at a press conference just before the House meeting led by Democratic D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.  

Bowser said the District had the law on its side in the form of a court order that allowed budget autonomy to stand. The 2017 D.C. budget is already on its way to being approved by the mayor and the City Council, which officials said they intend to do so without the OK from Congress.  

Related: What a Long, Strange Case: D.C. Budget Autonomy

The D.C. government has typically been dependent on Congress to sign off on its budget, even though the District prepares its own spending blueprint, which the president then submits to Congress with his own budget plans.   The inability to determine how to spend even locally raised funds, such as income taxes and fees, has led to years of frustration. Contact Rahman at remarahman@cqrollcall.com or follow her on Twitter at @remawriter   Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.