The House of Representatives condemned what it described as the "ongoing pattern of corruption in the D.C. government" yesterday while approving the District's $3 billion operating and capital budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
The corruption amendment, introduced by Rep. Robert S. Walker (R-Pa.), came a day after a crowd of about 700 persons, including business and community leaders and D.C. government appointees, rallied on the steps of the District Building to protest what they said was unfair treatment of Mayor Marion Barry by the U.S. attorney and the news media in the current federal probe of city government contracting.
"A number of us have been disturbed watching on television and reading in the newspapers about a continuing pattern of corruption that has emanated" from the D.C. government, Walker said. "The amendment . . . has us on record saying this is a fundamental problem that should be corrected."
The anticorruption amendment has no real impact on the city government, amounting to a public rebuke of local officials. However, the House also created a more tangible problem for the city, approving an amendment that blocks the District from using local or federal funds to pay for abortions for poor women.
The House, which approved the overall D.C. spending bill by 225 to 113, rejected other proposals that would have eliminated the city's residence requirement for many District employes and cut $2.6 million earmarked for the city's planned acquisition of the Antioch School of Law.
Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.) opposed the amendment deploring alleged corruption, arguing that the measure ought to be expanded to criticize wrongdoing within the Reagan administration and the federal government, which oversee the District.
"None of us support corruption," Fauntroy said. "All of us deplore it . . . . What we object to is the abuse of the grand jury process and procedures, where we fail to have trial by juries and, because of illegal leaks, we have trial by the press, trial by TV and radio, and trial by innuendo."
Julius W. Hobson Jr., the Barry administration's lobbyist on Capitol Hill, said yesterday "we have no problems" with the amendment, adding that the city is moving to put in place new regulations aimed at preventing improper contracting practices.
"Almost anyone can set up a system to try to prevent fraud or corruption, but there always will be people who can find a way around the system," Hobson said.
The bill includes $48 million in federal funds to cover the cost of water and sewer services provided by the District to federal agencies. The Reagan administration has asked that the city bill individual agencies directly for water services, based on meter readings, rather than seeking a lump sum in the spending bill.
James C. Miller III, director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, has warned that President Reagan might veto the bill unless the $48 million is deleted. "Considering that federal agencies' operating budgets include funds for utility payments, the $48 million payment to the District is duplicative and increases the deficit unnecessarily," Miller said in a letter to the Appropriations Committee June 17.
However, the U.S. comptroller general concluded April 1 that the administration request is contrary to a 1954 D.C. law prohibiting the city from accepting payments directly from individual agencies. During the debate yesterday, Rep. Julian Dixon (D-Calif.), chairman of the D.C. Appropriations subcommittee, agreed to confer with members of the House District Committee to explore legal ways of complying with the administration's request.
The antiabortion amendment, introduced by Rep. Robert Dornan (R-Calif.) and adopted by a vote of 191 to 181, prohibits the District government from using its own revenue as well as federal funds for abortions, with no exceptions.
Last year, the House approved the same amendment, but the Senate rejected efforts to dictate how the District could spend its own revenue. In the end, House and Senate conferees settled on standard language in federal appropriations bills that prevents federal funds from being used for abortions except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term or in cases of rape or incest.
This year, District officials concede, it may be tougher to knock out Dornan's amendment in conference, in part because of a significant change in the makeup of the Senate D.C. Appropriations subcommittee, which in the past has opposed efforts to restrict abortions in the District.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who succeeded Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) as chairman of the subcommittee, has consistently supported women's right to seek abortions, but the four other members of the panel have voted to limit abortions. They include Sens. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Don Nickles (R-Okla.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa.)