A bill to give the District some budget autonomy was deleted from the agenda of a House oversight Committee meeting Thursday, but not before Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) vowed to keep pressing the measure..
Issa’s bill, which would have allowed the city to start spending its own money as soon as the D.C. Council and mayor approved a budget, was rejected Wednesday by local leaders because it would also have made permanent a temporary ban on city-funded abortions. The measure had been tentatively scheduled to be marked up thursday by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
But despite the tension that has long surrounded the abortion issue, Thursday’s meeting was marked by bipartisan comity. As Issa pledged to continue working on the bill, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) lavished praise on the Republican for his efforts.
“As chair I remain committed that we will accomplish” passage of a budget bill, Issa said. “The District of Columbia has had reasonable autonomy for a long time in most areas. The clear exception has been preparing well in advance to spend its own money.”
In particular, Issa said that the current requirement that the city budget be approved by Congress made it difficult for the District to run its educational system.
“Schools are the most important part of any city’s budget, and the District of Columbia cannot make its plans independent of the appropriations process,” Issa said.
Norton, for her part, said she understood that adding the abortion provision to the bill was not Issa’s preference; many of his Republican colleagues wanted it. And she said Issa’s bill was similar in many respects to her own budget autonomy proposal.
“The bill was extraordinary in its scope and its deference and understanding of the city,” Norton said, later adding that Issa had “taken a might leap forward toward what the city has been trying to achieve since the home rule act passed.”
Both lawmakers acknowledged that the abortion restriction wasn’t the only issue that scuttled the bill. “It became apparent … there were lots of other potential riders” that members might offer, Issa said.
Moving forward, Issa said, he wanted lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to tell him ahead of time if they planned to offer amendments to the D.C. bill. Then they could be negotiated beforehand, he said, so “that we not be surprised unfairly.”
“I will keep the light on this issue,” Issa said, “until we have the law.”