Earlier this month, McDonnell quietly informed key leaders on Capitol Hill that he supports budget autonomy for D.C., a major goal for city officials who want to disentangle the District’s annual budgeting process from that of the federal government.
In a letter sent Feb. 9 to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), McDonnell said he wanted to give the city the budgetary freedom that “the governors of every state enjoy.”
McDonnell did not publicize the letter at the time, but a copy was obtained by The Washington Post.
Issa, whose panel has jurisdiction over District issues, proposed a bill in November that would allow the city to start spending its own money as soon as the D.C. Council and mayor agree on a budget, without waiting for approval from Congress. That would be especially helpful in the event of a federal government shutdown, which under current law would also result in the suspension of some District government services.
D.C. leaders rejected the measure because it also included a permanent ban on city-funded abortions, an issue that has sowed tension for several years between local officials and congressional Republicans. But Issa said he would keep working to move the issue forward, and now he has an ally in McDonnell.
If a federal shutdown also leads to a D.C. shutdown, McDonnell noted in the letter, “Vital services are then curtailed, from permit processing to METRO operations. That, in turn, has a direct impact on the over 100,000 Virginians who commute to their jobs in the District.”
Endorsing Issa’s proposal, McDonnell said “[i]t is in both Virginia and Maryland’s best interest that the District be able to operate without interruption, resulting in the financial certainty that will enable long term planning and better regional cooperation.”
McDonnell’s letter makes no mention of the abortion provision that previously stalled Issa’s bill.
It’s not clear when the issue will move forward again in the House, though President Obama did call for District budget autonomy in the budget submission he unveiled last week.