When the dust settled after a volatile Capitol Hill subcommittee session yesterday, D.C. firefighters, police and other employes were no better off than before the hearing. But they were in better shape than Rep. Michael D. Barnes (D-Md.).
Barnes, who is in an uphill race for the U.S. Senate nomination in Maryland, ruled yesterday as chairman of the House District subcommittee on metropolitan affairs that the subcommittee could not consider an amendment to lift the controversial requirement that D.C. police officers and firefighters live in the District. Barnes, who said he had no choice in the parliamentary decision based on House rules, insists he supports the amendment.
In return, Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.), the amendment's sponsor, used a parliamentary objection to block a bill by D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy to exempt city employes from the Hatch Act, which prohibits them from engaging in political activity. Parris had said he would support the bill.
The firefighters and police, who watched both measures dissolve before their eyes, stalked out, promising political retribution for Barnes in the four-way race for the Senate nomination.
"Mr. Barnes did what he had to do," Gary Hankins, chairman of the labor committee of the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police, pointedly told a Barnes aide. "And now we'll do what we have to do."
Hankins and Thomas Tippett, president of Local 36 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, which represents D.C. firefighters, threatened to let firefighters and police officers in Maryland know about their "disappointment." Both accused Barnes of paying no more than "lip service" to their cause.
"That's what it's all about," said Tippett. "Now we'll have to evaluate and see who we'll support in the Senate race."
Barnes later emphasized that he is on the side of the firefighters and police who oppose the residency requirement. Both groups argue that it causes them economic hardship because it is more expensive to live in the District than in some nearby suburbs. "I am for lifting it," said Barnes. "That's what's so ironic, but it does not affect my duty as chairman to rule on points of order."
Parris had attempted to tack his amendment onto Fauntroy's Hatch Act bill. But Fauntroy opposes lifting the residency requirement, which D.C. officials see as a matter of home rule, not to be tampered with by Congress.
When Parris introduced his amendment, Fauntroy argued that it was not relevant to his bill because it dealt with changing an entirely different area of D.C. law. Parris responded that the amendment was relevant to the bill -- which amendments must be under House rules -- because both deal with restoring personal rights to D.C. employes.
Barnes, asserting that the House parliamentarians said "this is not even a close call," ruled in Fauntroy's favor. Barnes said the two measures "deal with two separate subject matters: one, the political activities of city employes, and the other, residency requirements."
While Fauntroy praised Barnes for his "honor and courage," Parris asserted, "To those of us long-suffering members of the minority . . . this does not come as a great shock." Barnes shot back that Parris' "implication that this is because you're a Republican and we're Democrats is nonsense."
As the session ended, Fauntroy's Hatch Act bill remained on hold.
As to lifting the residency requirement, the firefighters and police promised they'd be back. "We lost this skirmish," said Ken Cox, vice president of Local 36, "but we haven't lost the war."