D.C. Councilmembers Oppose Boehner's Vouchers Bill

Boehner has been a strong proponent of the voucher program. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Eight members of the District of Columbia City Council expressed their opposition Thursday to Speaker John A. Boehner's bill to reauthorize a D.C. school voucher program.  

In a letter sent to House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the council members argued the program was ineffective and an affront to local governance. They said students in the program should be able to use them throughout high school, but the program should not be extended to new students. "It is insulting to our constituents, who vote for us but not any voting member of Congress, that some of your colleagues push their personal agendas on D.C. in a way they never do in their home state," the lawmakers wrote.  

Gridlock to Governing: Staffer Joins D.C. Council Office

Austin is excited about her move to D.C. government. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Keenan Austin's work day now begins by climbing the steps of the John A. Wilson building, instead of the Cannon House Office Building.  

Austin recently became the latest congressional staffer to depart the gridlocked institution for the District of Columbia government, joining At-Large Councilmember David Grosso's office as his new chief of staff in September.  

D.C. Gun Fight Advancing Through Courts

Norton has accused GOP lawmakers of bullying D.C. over its gun laws. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A federal appeals court has expedited the case of a trio of men who filed suit against the District of Columbia in February after being denied handgun carry licenses, and ruled that D.C. can keep enforcing a key provision of its concealed carry licensing system in the meantime.  

Backed by the Second Amendment Foundation, a nonprofit based in the state of Washington, the men challenged the discretionary nature of the D.C.'s gun licensing system, which requires gun owners demonstrate a "good" or "proper" reason to obtain a concealed carry permit. The lawsuit and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit's Monday ruling to allow it to proceed is one of many attempts by SAF to expand access to guns via the courts. In the legislative branch, GOP-led efforts to wipe out gun control laws in the nation's capital have been rebuked by local officials as congressional bullying, or federal meddling in local affairs.  

It's Time for the Circulator — on the National Mall

Officials launch a new D.C. Circulator route Friday. (Bridget Bowman/CQ Roll Call)

As the sun beat down on the National Mall late Friday morning, District of Columbia officials cut a ribbon in front of a bus parked by the Lincoln Memorial, launching the sixth DC Circulator bus route.  

DC Circulator has operated bus routes around the District for the past 10 years, providing $1 rides to residents and visitors. The new route along the National Mall, which originates at Union Station, begins Sunday with 15 stops at the various monuments and museums, with a final stop at the West Front of the Capitol. "The Mall is one of my priorities," said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. "This Circulator means that maybe we'll get rid of some of those gas-guzzling tour buses that are ruining the view and ruining our pollution."  

Mendelson Cautious on Budget Autonomy Act

Mendelson, left, is cautious about what's next. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

For the first time, the District of Columbia could move forward with a budget that is not tied to the federal appropriations process, thanks to a court decision issued Wednesday.  

“I have to confer with our general counsel, but I expect that we’re going to have to follow the law, which is budget autonomy. Which means we’ll be voting twice and sending the budget to the Congress as we do with any other law,” D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said in a phone interview. On Wednesday, a federal appeals court dismissed a case surrounding the local Budget Autonomy Act, prompting D.C. officials and activists to argue it could now take effect. Mendelson indicated he believed the act could take effect, but he stopped short of definitively saying he would move forward with the new budget process under the act. He expects to "get clarity" about the ruling and come to a final decision about the next step over the next two weeks.  

Bowser, Council Score D.C. Budget Autonomy Victory

Bowser's motion to dismiss the budget autonomy case appeal was granted Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council scored a victory Wednesday in the ongoing court case surrounding a law granting D.C. more control over its local budget.  

On the same day the D.C. Council debated the District's budget, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted Bowser's motion to dismiss the case's appeal, which centered around a dispute between the D.C. Council and Bowser's predecessor, Vincent Gray. Gray believed that the Budget Autonomy Act was illegal, pitting him against the D.C. Council in court. But since Bowser believes it is legal, the court ruled that the case is moot. For some activists and D.C. officials, the decision means the act could take effect this year.  

D.C. Officials Break Ground on 'Capitol Crossing'

D.C. officials break ground on the Capitol Crossing project. (Bridget Bowman/CQ Roll Call)

Donning construction hats displaying a blue Capitol Dome, District of Columbia officials gathered under a tent adjacent to Interstate 395 Tuesday to break ground on the Capitol Crossing project.  

The $1.3 billion project, privately funded by Property Group Partners, will install five mixed-use buildings over the next four years in what is now just air above I-395. The project includes housing, restaurant, office and retail space, as well as new interstate entrance and exit ramps. Construction kicked off at the three-block space in Northwest D.C., bound by Massachusetts Avenue, Third Street, E Street and Second Street, amid concerns the project would cause congestion along the busy highway. But D.C. officials said the benefits of the project outweigh the temporary inconveniences.  

House Votes to Block D.C. Law

Norton said the resolution was "a double whammy." (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In a largely symbolic move, the House voted mostly down party lines late Thursday night to block a District of Columbia bill that D.C. officials say would combat workplace discrimination.  

A corps of mainly Republicans passed a joint resolution of disapproval 228-192, aimed at the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act, which dictated that employers cannot discriminate against employees based on their reproductive health decisions. Conservatives argued the act could force employers to violate their religious beliefs. A handful of Democrats and Republicans, some in swing districts, broke rank with their party and voted for and against the resolution, respectively. It was the first time in nearly 25 years the entire House voted to block a D.C. law, and, for the District's delegate, the move packed a one-two punch.  

National Watchdog Group Jumps Into D.C. Budget Autonomy Case

Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton accused the D.C. mayor and council of playing "corrupt political games." (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Judicial Watch, a national watchdog group, has inserted itself into the District of Columbia court case surrounding the Budget Autonomy Act, arguing the mayor and the District Council are wrong to support the act and are playing "corrupt political games." "I think if you look at Judicial Watch, you see that we do focus a lot on national issues, but over the years we have focused on local issues around the country," Judicial Watch attorney Michael Bekesha said in a Wednesday phone interview. "We’re an organization focused on the rule of law and we will bring lawsuits, tackle issues, whenever we think the rule of law is being violated. We think it’s going here. It’s happening."  

Judicial Watch signaled its intentions Wednesday, when President Tom Fitton said in a release, “Mayor [Muriel] Bowser and the D.C. Council are attempting a power grab to spend tax dollars without authority under law,” adding, “Our taxpayer client seeks to make sure no tax dollars are spent in violation of the well-established law that the Congress must appropriate the District of Columbia’s budget. D.C. taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for the corrupt political games of its mayor and its D.C. Council.”  

Bowser and Racine Still at Odds in Budget Autonomy Case

Bowser doesn't agree with the city's elected attorney general about the Budget Autonomy Act. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The standoff between District of Columbia officials over the Budget Autonomy Act continued this week, with parties solidifying their positions in court filings and exposing a rift between the mayor and the attorney general.  

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser recently deviated from her predecessor , arguing that the act is legal, and has since filed a motion to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that the case should be dismissed. The case centered on a disagreement between two branches of D.C. government about the Budget Autonomy Act granting D.C. more control over its locally raised funds. Bowser's predecessor, Mayor Vincent Gray, clashed with the D.C. Council and believed the act was not legal, but Bowser took the opposite position. She argued that since the mayor and the council no longer disagree about the act, the case is moot. But she still faces opposition from the District's attorney general and chief financial officer.