The House of Representatives passed legislation yesterday designed to force the District of Columbia and 13 states to raise their minimum drinking age to 21 or face a permanent reduction in federal highway funds.
The measure, part of the Budget Reconciliation Act that still faces a vote in the Senate, would permanently withhold 10 percent of the highway funds from the 14 jurisdictions if they fail to raise the drinking age to 21.
It was the second time Congress had acted to pressure the jurisdictions into action. In 1984 Congress approved a measure withholding a portion of highway funds in fiscal 1987 and 1988, and that prodded many states, including Virginia, to adopt the 21-year minimum.
Maryland already had enacted similar legislation.
In the District a measure was defeated last year in a City Council committee to raise the drinking age, which is 18 for beer and wine and 21 for liquor.
According to D.C. officials, the District stands to lose about $2.6 million in highway funds in fiscal 1987 and $5.3 million in fiscal 1988 under the current legislation.
The new measure, if enacted, would cost the District about $5 million in fiscal 1989, officials said.