IN A NEAR party-line vote, the House decided this week that anti-home rule riders can be added to the District's fiscal 2000 budget when it is debated on the floor today. The 227 to 201 tally undercuts the spirit of cooperation developed earlier this year between the city's new mayor, Anthony Williams, and House Republican leaders. The vote also signals open season on local self-determination.
Floor debate rules now permit the addition of four "social" riders: a prohibition against the use of District or federal funds on a needle-exchange program; a ban on joint adoptions by people unrelated by blood or marriage; a prohibition against a minor's possessing tobacco products; and a ban on the use of funds to legalize or reduce penalties for the use or distribution of marijuana. If adopted, those riders would join other provisions already tucked into the committee bill that also undermine D.C. self-government: bans against using city funds to support abortions, domestic partnership laws, voting representation claims and ballot initiatives.
District officials are rightly upset with this turn. They are not alone. This week the Office of Management and Budget told the House Republican leadership that the social riders are intrusive and objectionable. Include them in a D.C. budget bill sent to the president, said OMB, and "his senior advisers would recommend that the president veto the bill."
Plenty of hard work by the mayor, council and financial control board went into fashioning the balanced budget now on the Hill. To the delight of city leaders, House D.C. appropriations subcommittee chairman Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) and ranking member James Moran (D-Va.) delivered on the GOP leadership's promise to bring the District budget to the floor early this year. These riders now threaten months of productive labor by District leaders and Congress. It isn't fair and it isn't right. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said the riders are anathema to the District. They should be stricken.