Rep. Stewart B. McKinney (R-Conn.) yesterday proposed abolishing the House District of Columbia Committee, which for nearly a half century has reigned over D.C. government affairs, even with the advent of home rule 10 years ago.
McKinney, ranking minority member of the committee, said the panel's responsibilities, including the review of city legislation and administrative actions, should be downgraded and shifted to a subcommittee. He said the District government is able to conduct its own affairs and doesn't need a congressional overseer.
"Continuing a standing committee 10 years after the first election of local government officials is an exercise in self-flagellation for this body," McKinney told the House Administration Committee. "But it is also a failure to recognize and acknowledge the progress made by the officials and citizens of the District of Columbia."
Mayor Marion Barry and D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy are divided over the proposal, with Barry favoring the swift dismantling of the committee and Fauntroy arguing that the committee should be retained until the District achieves statehood and resolves other thorny self-government issues.
"I don't think that a subcommittee of an existing committee of Congress will give as careful attention and as much clout to the legitimate concerns of a number of members of this House" regarding the District, said Fauntroy, a member of the District committee.
McKinney's statement drew an angry response from Rep. Ronald Dellums (D-Calif.), chairman of the District committee, who criticized the Republican for not consulting with him and other committee members.
"I have considered Stu McKinney over the years as a personal friend," Dellums said. "I have worked very diligently not to allow the District committee to get involved in the throes of partisanship . . . . What hurt me the most was, number one, a personal relationship has been violated, in terms of protocol."
Dellums said he wasn't bothered by the proposal itself, which could cost him a chairmanship.
"I'm not concerned about power," he said. "What kind of power does the chairman of the D.C. committee have? It's ludicrous."
McKinney, who looked somewhat sheepish after his run-in with Dellums, said a copy of his statement was delivered to Dellum's office Wednesday afternoon but conceded the material should have been sent there much sooner.
Dellums said that for years he and other House members have discussed the need to phase out the committee once the District had achieved true self government. He said he wouldn't rule out the possibility that the committee would be disbanded by late 1986, as McKinney has proposed.
However, he stressed that the process of disbanding a committee and reassigning or firing staff is a complicated and politically delicate one, which will require the support of the committee members, the House leadership and a number of other standing committees.
McKinney read his statement during a morning session of the Administration Committee, which was reviewing the District committee's request for operating funds.
Under McKinney's plan, the committee would be replaced by a subcommittee of the Government Operations Committee -- similar to what the Senate did 10 years ago -- or a subcommittee of the Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs Committee.
Pauline Schneider, the mayor's director of intergovernmental relations, said yesterday that "we fully support" McKinney's proposal.