The Senate has given final approval to a record $361 million federal payment to the District of Columbia, after lawmakers compromised with D.C. government officials to avert a showdown over how to bolster the city's pension fund.
Before adjourning late Friday night, Congress also approved a stopgap funding measure to allow the city to continue operating at current levels into the new fiscal year that began Friday until a final funding bill is approved.
The $361 million federal payment, a $24.4 million increase over last year's, has already been approved by the House. The larger payment will become part of the city's $1.9 billion spending bill when Congress returns from recess to take a final vote on the city's budget.
The federal payment is the amount Congress gives the city each year to compensate for lost tax dollars and other costs associated with being home to the federal government.
The Senate, in approving the record payment, was essentially ratifying an agreement reached last week between Mayor Marion Barry and Rep. Stanford Parris (R-Va.). Parris, concerned about the solvency of the city's pension fund, had wanted $14.3 million of the federal payment earmarked to buttress the fund, which provides retirement benefits to teachers, firefighters and police.
Barry and city representatives on Capitol Hill had argued that earmarking part of the federal payment for the pension fund was an unneeded swipe at the city's young home rule government.
The House approved Parris' request to earmark the money. But when the federal payment bill reached a House-Senate conference committee, Parris agreed to drop that request if Barry promised to put the same amount of money plus some interest into the pension fund over three years.