House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa reiterated Wednesday his concerns over the District’s plan to put a budget autonomy referendum on the April ballot, but made clear it would not derail his own effort to move the issue on Capitol Hill.
Issa (R-Calif.) had previously raised questions about the wisdom of the ballot referendum, which would amend the city charter to give the District government more freedom to spend local taxpayer money without awaiting congressional approval. Issa has echoed some local critics — including D.C. attorney general Irvin B. Nathan — who believe the strategy doesn’t pass legal muster.
“I can’t affect what they choose to do,” Issa said of District voters in a brief interview Wednesday.
“I can only say that many people in D.C. government have recognized that it won’t be lawful and it won’t be helpful. Having said that, I’m not going to let what people do for voter populist reasons get in the way of what I think we should do. ... [District leaders] need their budget to be timely, and I want them to have that opportunity.”
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) unveiled her own version of legislation to grant budget autonomy to the city Tuesday, and Issa said both he and Norton “reiterated our support for getting a budget autonomy solution that comes out of the House. We’re going to keep working on it.”
Issa would not say when a bill might move forward but suggested he might have an update on the subject next week. Asked whether the April referendum would make his fellow House Republicans less likely to support such legislation, Issa replied: “I hope not.”
On a separate front, Norton said Wednesday that she had introduced two bills to grant the District more representation in Congress. One measure would give the city two senators and one House member, while the other would grant the District just the House member. Norton also offered a measure last week that would make D.C. into New Columbia — the 51st state.
None of the three voting rights bills is likely to move forward in the Republican-controlled House.