Republicans on a House committee on Tuesday voted to forge ahead with broad plans to review the District’s laws and local spending, signaling a potentially unprecedented level of involvement from Congress into the affairs of the nation’s capital.
While some Republicans struck a conciliatory tone with respect to the city, Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform committee, said members are bound by constitutional “duty and obligation” to oversee the minutiae of District affairs.
At one point, he suggested exploring the idea of Maryland absorbing the residential areas of the District, sending the committee into a tizzy.
“I really would love to explore the idea of retroceding the residential areas into Maryland so that not only do you have a member of Congress, but you have two senators a state legislature, a governor,” Chaffetz said. “If you want full representation, I’m very sympathetic to that. I think there’s actually a way to do that.”
Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting delegate representing the District, interjected, “Has the chairman ever asked anyone from the state of Maryland how they feel about that?
Laughter broke out in the committee hearing room.
Then, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said Republicans have raised the idea offered by Chaffetz in the past, but there are other considerations.
“There’s that sort of nasty little problem of the will of the people of the District of Columbia and the will of the people of the state of Maryland,” he said.
The exchange is emblematic of the uncertainty the District faces as Congress takes up measures to remake its gun laws, reverse a newly passed assisted suicide law and fiddle with marijuana legalization. Last week the House passed a law blocking the District from using local taxpayer dollars to subsidize abortion services for low-income women.
The purpose of the hearing on Tuesday was to hear amendments to the committee’s plan for how it will oversee the executive branch for the next two years.