In our comments yesterday on the failure of Congress to enact a budget for the city, we said the city now was under a "continuing" spending resolution scheduled to expire in January. We were misinformed - the city doesn't even have that much going for it. As it stands, the city has no formal spending authority whatsoever, a situation that makes it all the more important for Congress to resolve any differences and enact the necessary legislation.
AFTER LETTING the District scrounge along for two months without a budget, congressional overseers have now come up with an even more reckless way to handle the District's financial affairs. If Rep. William Natcher (D-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on the District has his way, Congress will approve a "continuing resolution" that would leave the nation's capital without a budget for all of the fiscal year. In other words, the city couldn't spend a penny more for anything than it did last year, no new programs, no pay increases, no construction for the University of the District of Columbia and so on. This is an inexcusable way to treat the city and merely underscores the failure of the congressional leadership to resolve a deadlock over the proposed new convention center.
Apparently Mr. Natcher, who supports the city's full money request for the center, wants to buy time - and perhaps even save face - in a joint conference with the Senate forces, led by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who is not satisfied with the center proposal. The effect of this proposed "continuing resolution" would be to remove any pressure to resolve the center question. Moreover, without a budget, the city could not even come back to Congress for any special or "supplemental" budget requests, which it usually has to do even under the best of circumstances.
As it stands, the city already is under a continuing resolution scheduled to expire in January. Between now and then, there ought to be enough time to agree on a budget for the city and even on a mutually acceptable approach to the convention-center project. This is a matter of sufficient importance to deserve the attention of all the traditional supporters of the city: Sens. Thomas F. Eagleton (D-Mo.) and Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (R-Md.) and Rep. Charles C. Diggs Jr. (D-Mich.), for example - as well as President Carter's Task Force on the District.
The House is expected to vote on this measure before the end of the week. We strongly urge the members not to approve this easy way out of making the hard decisions that are necessary if the District government is to operate effectively in the coming year.