A House subcommittee expressed congressional concern yesterday over the District of Columbia's failure to raise its drinking age to 21 following Maryland and Virginia, saying "the situation . . . will jeopardize many lives."
The House Appropriations subcommittee on the District, in approving the city's fiscal 1986 budget, added language to its report stating that it "remains concerned" about the District's 18-year-old drinking age for beer and wine.
"If the District of Columbia retains a legal minimum drinking age of 18, it is clear that an unfortunate incentive will be created for young people from Virginia and Maryland to head to the District to drink and then drive home on area roads," it stated. "The situation created by the disparate drinking ages will jeopardize many lives."
Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), two new members of the subcommittee, had pressed Mayor Marion Barry and other city officials at hearings to raise the drinking age.
Barry has not taken a position on the issue, and the D.C. City Council has legislation pending to raise the age to 21 but has taken no action.
The subcommittee made few changes in the District's budget this year.
The panel also added language prohibiting the city from closing a New Jersey Avenue fire station that serves Capitol Hill until the District has reported to the subcommittee on the issue. Several members of congress had expressed concern about the proposed closing.
Wolf and Hoyer also offered report language on other local issues, including congratulating the District on its efforts to bring baseball back to the city.
After Hoyer recommended several such amendments, he balked at offering another that would ask the District to consider putting tow trucks on the bridges between the District and Virginia to remove disabled vehicles during rush hour and having surrounding jurisdictions share the cost.
"I drive across the bridges, I'll offer it," chimed in Rep. Martin O. Sabo (D-Minn.) to laughter. He did and it was accepted. The full Appropriations Committee is scheduled to take up the budget next week.