BY A LARGELY party-line vote of 208 to 206, the House of Representatives has adopted the D.C. budget conference report. It's not every day that a District budget measure passes the House with more Republican than Democratic votes. That political twist occurred on Thursday evening. It is not the only unusual aspect of this year's D.C. budget.
District and administration officials are now urging a rare presidential veto of the D.C. budget conference report if the Senate adopts it next week. Their objections are well founded. The District presented Congress with a balanced budget bill containing an unprecedented tax cut, a budget surplus and well-crafted investments in critical municipal activities. In response, Congress took a good budget bill and burdened it with several harmful and unnecessary riders. Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman Linda Ricci was correct when she said congressionally added provisions in the conference report "essentially trample on the ability of the District of Columbia to conduct its business in a way consistent with home rule."
As Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton observed during House floor debate, the conference report redirects funds earmarked for urgent city priorities to other, congressionally imposed, priorities. Moreover, she said, Republican leaders have now resorted to prepackaging offensive riders in the budget bill "before it even goes to subcommittee," thus making them more difficult to remove. This is no way for Congress to treat a city with a new slate of reform-minded executive and legislative leaders. With the support of the D.C. financial control board, District leaders set aside their differences to produce a sound and forward-looking fiscal 2000 budget. Congressional incursions into D.C. self-government represent an unfortunate step back in time.
The conference report takes home rule in the wrong direction. Should the Senate follow suit and adopt the House-passed measure, a presidential veto would be warranted.