HOUSE REPUBLICANS have hit a new low in their disregard for the District and the right of its residents to govern themselves. Even as they proclaim themselves champions of limited government and personal freedom, they passed a spending plan that unabashedly aims to limit the authority of the District’s elected officials over local issues. It is critical that the Senate, expected to take up a package of spending bills this week, makes clear it won’t go along with this unwarranted and unprincipled assault on the District’s right to self-government.
“Here we go again” was the somewhat exasperated reaction of D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) to the House’s passage last week of a 2019 D.C. appropriations bill that contains seven anti-home-rule riders, the most in recent memory. In force now (unfortunately) are prohibitions on the use of local tax dollars to help low-income women obtain abortions and to commercialize recreational marijuana, but the House would (irresponsibly) add even more. It would bar funds to carry out measures requiring residents to have health insurance and banning employment discrimination based on reproductive health decisions. The House bill would also repeal the city’s Death with Dignity Act and do away with local budget autonomy.
That the District has proved to be an able manager of its money — with its bond rating recently upgraded to a coveted AAA — mattered not. Nor did the fact that measures such as medical aid in dying, commercial regulation of marijuana and low-income abortion assistance exist already in a number of states because of decisions properly made by their duly elected officials. Republicans point to their constitutional authority over the District to rationalize interference in local affairs, but the real reason has to do with how much easier it is to score political points in D.C.
Case in point, as Ms. Norton argued: Republicans never got over their failure to repeal Obamacare, so they target the District’s successful implementation of the popular law. Not only are there bragging rights for Republicans trying to gut the District’s efforts for universal health-care coverage, but they face no real consequences. After all, they don’t have to face D.C. voters to get elected. District citizens, of course, don’t even have a voting representative in Congress.
Especially disappointing was seeing Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), who as a neighbor should be an ally, go along with the misguided effort. Hopefully, the situation will be different in the Senate and, instead of these noxious riders, there will be recognition that the rights of 700,000 American citizens need to be respected and upheld.