Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who opposes the District’s new assisted-suicide law, says he will move forward in committee on overturning the measure, setting up what could be a rare House floor vote to nullify a local District law.
Chaffetz’s announcement came Tuesday after he met with President Trump. But the lawmaker said the topic did not come up during the Oval Office visit.
The decision by the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee disappointed the law’s advocates and D.C. leaders who consider Chaffetz’s plan an affront to home rule.
Congress in 1973 granted the District the right to elect a mayor and a legislative body to enact local laws, but retained the right to veto the city’s legislation and spending decisions.
“I didn’t ask for this bill. D.C. presented it to the Congress, so we have the option to deal with it, and in this particular case I am going to exercise that and put it up for a vote,” Chaffetz said, adding that he opposes the law. “I think Congress should vote on it.”
More people live in the nation’s capital than in Vermont or Wyoming, and they pay more in federal taxes than their counterparts in 22 states. But the federal district has no voting member of Congress.
In recent weeks, Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have introduced legislation to roll back the city’s gun laws and prevent it from using local tax dollars to subsidize abortion services for poor women. One lawmaker has threatened legislation that would end the city’s legalization of marijuana.
On Wednesday, DCVote, which urges voting rights for the District in Congress, sent a letter to the House of Representatives, calling on lawmakers to respect the will of the city’s 670,000 residents. It was signed by 27 local and national organizations, including labor unions, abortion rights groups, LGBT advocates and gun-control groups.
“These federal congressional actions would unjustly undermine important local decisions made by the people of the District of Columbia through their elected leaders,” the letter said. “As is the case with residents of your congressional districts and home states, the District’s residents should have the ability to enact local laws to address pressing local concerns. We urge you to respect local autonomy by opposing these efforts to thwart the will of the District of Columbia’s residents.”
Under the D.C. law, which was passed by the D.C. Council in November, the nation’s capital would become the seventh jurisdiction to provide a way for terminally ill patients to end their lives.
The legislation was modeled after the nation’s first physician-
assisted-suicide law, enacted in Oregon. It would allow doctors to prescribe fatal medication to patients believed to have less than six months to live. Patients would have to make two requests over two weeks and ingest the drugs themselves. The D.C. Council passed the measure in November.
Assisted suicide is legal in California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington state.
Both the House and Senate would have to agree to overturn the D.C. law by Feb. 18 to prevent it from taking effect, according to lawyers for the D.C. Council. Republicans in the Senate have in recent years been reluctant to get bogged down in debate over D.C. laws.
Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.