House panel approves D.C. spending bill

June 6, 2012

A House subcommittee approved a bill providing federal funds for the District on Wednesday with little debate about the city, paving the way for a potentially more contentious session later this month.

The fiscal 2013 measure would give the District $667 million in federal money — roughly the same amount as the city got for 2012 — which covers the costs of the D.C. court system as well as security for major national events, a school voucher program and a handful of other items. It also continues a controversial ban on the city using its own money to pay for abortions for low-income women and prohibits the use of federal (but not local) funds to pay for needle-exchange or medical marijuana programs.

The Republican-authored bill, which also includes funding for the Treasury Department and several other agencies, passed by voice vote along party lines. And Democrats made it clear they were unhappy with the social policy “riders” placed on the District.

“No other locality in the nation has such intrusive interference from Congress,” Rep. Jose E. Serrano (N.Y.), the subcommittee’s top Democrat, said of the abortion provision. “And I may say as an aside that in the last few congresses, we went a long way to allowing the American citizens that live in the District of Columbia to be treated fairly, and I’m sorry to see that we’re getting back to some areas where we should allow the people in D.C. to govern themselves and not have Congress tell them what to do.”

Republicans made little mention of the District in their own comments on the bill and did not reference the abortion debate. And no amendments related to the District were offered. But that could change when the full Appropriations Committee takes up the measure, probably in two weeks.

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