The dispute over a measure that would restrict the uses of the new Washington Convention Center has stymied Congressional action on the D.C. government's 1983 appropriations bill. The new fiscal year begins Friday.
Although the House is expected to vote on the bill today, the Senate has agreed to a request by Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton (D-Mo.), who opposes restrictions on the center, that the Senate indefinitely delay voting on the spending bill until the dispute can be resolved. This likely would not come until after a congressional recess that will begin at the end of this week.
"I can see no reason for Congress to restrict the use of the District's new convention center," said Eagleton, a ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
"It's a local project, financed by local tax dollars," he said. "I see no federal interest in the center, and limiting its use to conventions and trade shows would place the center at a tremendous disadvantage vis-a-vis similar facilities in other major cities."
City officials said yesterday they could get along during the next 60 to 90 days without an appropriations bill, provided Congress approves a continuing spending resolution before it begins its recess. "The chances are very, very great that we will be on a continuing resolution beginning Oct. 1," said D.C. Budget Director Gladys W. Mack.
Language that would require the convention center to be used almost exclusively for conventions and trade shows was added recently to the 1983 D.C. budget appropriations bill by the appropriations committees of the House and Senate. The amendment effectively would prevent the convention center from competing with the Capital Center in Landover or other arenas to book sporting events, concerts and theatrical performances.
According to congressional sources, Abe Pollin, chairman of the Capital Centre, urged members of the appropriations committees to adopt the restrictions after the convention center officials requested permission to spend $2.3 million to install 10,000 theater-style seats on retractable risers.
D.C. Del. Walter Fauntroy and Rep. Stewart McKinney (R-Conn.) will lead an effort to delete the restrictive language when the 1983 D.C. appropriations bill is brought to the House floor, probably today.
"It stinks like the dead turkey that it is," McKinney said in describing the proposed restrictions.
McKinney and Fauntroy will ask the presiding officer of the House to rule that the restrictive language is out of order because it constitutes authorizing legislation, which should not be made part of an appropriations bill. They also will contend that the language violates House rules because it effectively would bind the hands of future Congresses to impose restrictions on the convention center.