June 27, 2012

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-Ky.) came to Washington on the wave of the tea party movement to limit big government. “I think a lot of things could be handled locally . . . the more local the better, and the more common sense the decisions are, rather than having a federal government make those decisions,” he said during his 2010 campaign. So how to explain his spoiling a move to give the District autonomy over its own tax dollars by — and this is really rich — injecting the federal government into local affairs?

We thought we could no longer be surprised by congressional hypocrisy when it comes to the nation’s capital, but Mr. Paul’s willingness to turn his back on his supposed libertarian principles and devotion to local rule is truly stunning.

A bill that would give D.C. officials the ability to spend local dollars — we repeat, locally collected, locally paid tax dollars — without congressional approval was pulled from consideration this week after Mr. Paul introduced a set of amendments that would dictate to the city policies on guns, abortions and unions. “The last senator I would expect it from,” said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), telling us that she has never seen so many amendments offered at one time by a single member to restrict D.C. rights. Ironically, Ilir Zherka, head of the advocacy group DC Vote, said that Mr. Paul initially had been seen as a potential ally for the District because of his views on small government.

Mr. Paul told The Post’s Ben Pershing, “I think it’s a good way to call attention to some issues that have national implications. We don’t have [control] over the states, but we do for D.C.” In other words, “I am doing this because I can” — not exactly the argument one expects to hear from someone who has railed about federal intrusion. As Mr. Zherka pointed out, Mr. Paul’s brief for small government is not whether the federal government has the power but whether it should use it.

A spokesman for Mr. Paul e-mailed us a reminder that the District is not a state but a federal jurisdiction: “Efforts to change that have failed, and until it is changed it is not only the prerogative but the duty of Congress to have jurisdiction over the Federal District.” What we don’t get is how someone who raises the banner of a movement inspired by a time when Americans were ruled without representation could be so unsympathetic to the rights of D.C. citizens who are in the same position.