Just hours after he made bail, Mayor Vincent C. Gray said that although he wasn’t sure about the White House’s role in the budget deal that averted a government shutdown, “it seems the District of Columbia was thrown under the bus.”
In an interview with CNN, Gray, who was arrested Monday at a Capitol Hill rally against budget riders that were added to the federal spending plan, said the District became a “bargaining chip in the political game over the budget.”
Forty-one people -- including six D.C. council members -- were arrested and charged with unlawful assembly for blocking passage on the street, U.S. Capitol Police said Monday.
The controversial riders were imposed during budget negotiations Friday night and were agreed to by President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). The riders include a provision banning the District from spending its own money to provide abortions to low-income women. The deal also revives and expands a controversial school voucher program that has divided D.C. officials, and that Gray opposes.
Gray said the city should be allowed to spend its local tax dollars as it sees fit, including providing abortion services for low-income women.
“Folks in congress will do things to the District of Columbia that they wouldn’t do in their own districts,” Gray told CNN. “ ... It’s an outrageous position. We raise our tax dollars just like other states do, just like other cities do.”
The fate of other provisions affecting the Washington area, including cuts in federal payments to the District for courts, schools and other items, have not been made public.
Before their arrest, Gray and fellow city leaders attacked the spending deal and the federal officials who agreed to it without consulting the District first.
“I’m tired of being a pawn in a political game,” Gray said. “All we want is to be able to spend our own money.”
Gray and others seized on a report in The Washington Post that said in the heat of negotiations on the spending bill, Obama said to Boehner, “John, I will give you D.C. abortion.” The concession by Obama came partly in exchange for Boehner agreeing to drop a GOP-authored provision ending federal funding for Planned Parenthood.