A parliamentary ruling in the Senate may block the District of Columbia's campaign to transfer the ownership of RFK Stadium from the federal government to the District.
House-passed legislation approving the transfer of the 55,000-seat stadium has been sent to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee instead of the Governmental Affairs Committee, where District officials were counting on a favorable reception.
As a result, congressional sources indicate, the chances have considerably narrowed for Senate passage of a bill that already is under criticism as a government giveaway.
For the past few years, the District has been trying to obtain the ownership of RFK Stadium, arguing that is necessary if the city is ever to get a baseball team.
"We have a lot better shot of winning an expansion team if we have control of the stadium," Garland Pinkston, acting director of the District's Office of Intergovernmantal Relations, said yesterday. "We're anxious to see the legislation move."
Critics contend the transfer is a government giveaway because of the District's previously announced plans to lease the stadium to Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke at a profitable rate in return for his promise to make improvements in the hope of landing a baseball team. Cooke also is trying to obtain a baseball franchise for Washington.
The proposed transfer also has stirred some criticism in Maryland, where some feel it would increase competition between RFK Stadium and Capital Centre in Landover.
The committee assignment has set off a jurisdictional battle between committees.
Staffers with the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee indicated yesterday they are in no hurry and have no plans to move on the bill. "Nothing is scheduled yet," said Pietro A. Bevinetto, a staff member with the committee's public lands subcomittee.
"The system is designed to defeat legislation. Unless someone is interested in the measure, you will not get a bill," he said, noting that no one has expressed interested, not even Sen. Charles Mathias, (R-Md.), chairman of the Governmental Affairs District of Columbia subcommittee.
Meanwhile, Governmental Affairs Committee staffers, contending the parliamentarian erred in assigning the bill to the rival committee, are trying to figure out a way to regain jurisdiction over the measure.
"We think the bill should have been referred to us," one committee source said. Since it would take a unanimous vote by the Senate to achieve that goal legislatively, the source said, committee chairman William Roth (R-Del.) was trying to talk to the key senators at the Energy and Natural Resource Committee, including chairman James McClure (R-Ind.), in the hopes of making a deal that would transfer the legislation to the Governmental Affairs Committee.
"We hope to have things resolved next week," the source said.
Bevinetto yesterday said he did not believe the legislation was in the wrong committee. "This is a bill transferring RFK Stadium to D.C.," he said. "This property is adminstered by the secretary of Interior. It is public land. This is normally the jurisdiction of this committee."