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Two traumatic days in the fall of 2013 — the Sept. 16 Navy Yard shooting and the Oct. 3 car chase that resulted in the death of Miriam Carey — pushed the Capitol campus into lockdown. Capitol Police armed themselves with long guns, armored vehicles rolled across the East Front and the campus community descended into a state of panic.
In both cases, once the crisis calmed, questions arose. Law enforcement officials are still investigating the shooting of Carey, and the Capitol Police union is calling for a second look at the inquiry into the department’s response to Navy Yard.
Just like other parts of the federal government that slipped into reduced operations on Oct. 1, the Capitol workforce grappled with having to make do with fewer employees for the length of the government shutdown.
Maintenance crews and dining services were cut. Member offices grappled with difficult decisions about which employees were “essential,” with some choosing to keep their entire staff reporting to work. Capitol Police officers protecting the Hill during the shutdown on Oct. 3 were an emblem of the dilemma of the unpaid federal workforce. The District of Columbia spared itself from the shutdown by tapping a contingency fund in an act of defiance that has thus far gone unpunished.
In early 2013, proponents of greater autonomy for Washington, D.C., fought hard to place a referendum on the April ballot freeing the District’s local tax dollars from the congressional appropriations process. They celebrated when it passed with overwhelming support, then breathed a sigh of relief in July as they marked the end of Congress’ 35-day review period.
The law takes effect in January, but many District officials have been cagey about implementing it, especially after the House cast doubt on the legal standing of the referendum. The shutdown dilemma brought renewed attention to the District’s struggle for budget autonomy, but no further congressional action. The question heading into 2014 remains — now what?