The House approved a bill Wednesday that would make permanent a ban on the District using its own money to fund abortions for low-income women, dealing D.C. another setback in its quest to retain control over its finances.
The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act cleared the House on a 251-175 vote, with 16 Democrats joining all 235 Republicans present to support it. The bill would tighten laws designed to prevent federally-funded abortions across the country, and would enshrine the District ban into federal law. The spending resolution signed by President Obama last month contains a similar restriction on D.C., but it only lasts through Sept. 30.
The House bill is unlikely to come up in standalone form in the Senate, where Democratic leaders are opposed. Obama has also threatened to veto the measure, in part, the Office of Management and Budget says, because it “restricts the District of Columbia’s use of local funds, which undermines home rule.”
Even if the bill is unlikely to become law, District officials were still upset by what they see as the latest in a series of insults emanating from Capitol Hill, particularly since they believe the bill’s language goes further than previous such measures.
“The language used in this bill converts the District into a Federal property for the first time in its history,” Mayor Vincent C. Gray wrote in a letter to members of Congress Wednesday. “This unprecedented affront to the sovereignty of a local and state government would never be contemplated anywhere else in the United States. Yet, the District is particularly singled out in the bill for such treatment.”
That followed a separate letter to congressional leaders that the full city council sent Tuesday.
Supporters of the bill note that it would make permanent a ban that has existed often in the last two decades when Republicans controlled Congress, and argue that such an exercise of power is an appropriate one.
“Most of the objections to this section misconstrue or misrepresent the constitutional status of the District of Columbia,” the National Right to Life Committee wrote to lawmakers this week. “Under the Constitution, the District is exclusively a federal jurisdiction. ... It is constitutional nonsense to speak of non-federal funds, because all government funds in the Federal District are federally controlled, federally appropriated funds.”