APPEALS BY THE District for the right every other jurisdiction has to conduct its own local affairs have largely fallen on deaf ears. Arguments about democracy, self-determination and people’s inalienable rights have — much to the disgrace of Congress — gone nowhere. So credit D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) for her ingenuity in coming up with a new strategy to advance the District’s interests.
“District of Columbia Paperwork Reduction Act” is the title of a bill Ms. Norton recently introduced that seeks to eliminate the congressional review period for all legislation passed by the D.C. Council and signed into law by the mayor. The mandatory review period delays laws from going into effect and results in duplicate or triplicate action when the council has to adopt emergency or temporary legislation. It takes 30 days for civil statute bills and 60 days for criminal statute bills to undergo congressional review; only the days that both House and Senate are in session count toward the total.
Ms. Norton has introduced similar legislation in the past to no effect. But this year she is trying to appeal to the stated interest of national lawmakers, Republicans in particular, to eliminate waste and inefficiency in government. “Congress cares nothing about granting our rights,” she told The Post’s Mike DeBonis, so she decided to pivot to process and paperwork.
“Kafkaesque make-work procedures” was Ms. Norton’s characterization of the layers of paperwork involved in submitting legislation to Congress for the required layover periods.
The council estimates that 5,000 employee hours and 160,000 sheets of paper could be saved every two-year legislative period if the layovers were eliminated. Since congressional review was established in 1973 under Home Rule, more than 5,000 acts have been transmitted to Congress; only three were overturned. Congress generally employs other means at its disposal — riders during the appropriations process is a particular favorite — to meddle in D.C. matters.
A spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the committee with oversight over the District, told us Mr. Issa was not endorsing or dismissing the bill but was open to discussions. We would hope Congress would want to improve efficiency in government. But then we also would hope legislators would want to ensure that D.C. residents have all the rights other U.S. citizens have.