The House approved the District's $4.7 billion budget yesterday for the fourth time this year, but it probably will take another vote before the city has a spending plan for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.
House Republicans grafted a labor, education, health and welfare spending bill onto the D.C. budget, and President Clinton's budget advisers are recommending that he veto it. Among other things, the bill contains a GOP-sponsored 1 percent across-the-board spending cut in all federal programs.
If the bill is vetoed and lawmakers do not override the veto, the D.C. budget probably would face a fifth vote. In the meantime, Congress has allowed the city to continue operating, but at last year's budget levels. The budget includes what would be the largest tax cut in the city's history.
The District would lose $4.2 million of its $429 million in federal funds under the 1 percent spending cut. The federal money finances courts and corrections programs and includeds new grants to District high school seniors that would allow them to attend Maryland and Virginia colleges and universities at in-state rates.
D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) has declined to comment on the proposed cuts, but Chief Financial Officer Valerie Holt said any reduction in the city's federal funding would "greatly affect" District operations, especially the corrections budget.
GOP leaders are threatening to cut the city's budget if it surfaces again, but the Clinton administration would try to stop that. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said the District's $4.2 million cut wasn't much money.
"The D.C. bill may have to be cut some more if it comes back again," Lott said. "In fact, I've already suggested that. I believe there's some money available in there for the mayor's discretionary use, and we ought to take a look at that because D.C. has to be part of the savings like everybody else."
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and White House budget officials said the Republicans are threatening the city to gain leverage in budget negotiations. Norton was angry that Republicans used the District's budget to attach the labor, education and health spending bill knowing it faced a veto.
"The District was reduced to a mule to carry across the labor bill," Norton said.
When the District budget bill returns, it could be changed again. But lawmakers from the Senate and House reached agreement this week on several so-called social riders that had held up the budget after Clinton vetoed it Sept. 28.
Though Congress intends to ban the use of medical marijuana in the city, lawmakers agreed to allow private clinics such as Whitman-Walker to distribute needles to drug addicts without losing federal funds.