“ONE OF the major goals of this administration is to place responsibility for local functions under local control and to provide local governments with the authority and resources they need to serve their communities effectively.” That statement from a Republican president as he signed the 1973 law giving the right of self-government to the District of Columbia is worth recalling as another Republican prepares to occupy the Oval Office in what threatens to be a time of unprecedented congressional meddling in D.C. affairs.
President-elect Donald Trump has said he wants to do what is best for the people of the District. As President Richard Nixon’s words make clear, that means ensuring their freedom to govern themselves in local affairs. Mr. Trump should stand up for self-government in Washington, something the rest of the country enjoys.
Congressional Republicans’ determination to use their party’s control of the House, Senate and White House to undermine D.C. home rule became clear this week with the introduction of bills to repeal the District’s gun-control laws and permanently bar the use of local tax money to subsidize abortions for low-income women. The moves, by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), come on the heels of announced efforts to undo the city’s new law allowing physician-assisted death for terminally ill patients. The interference isn’t likely to end there either, given past Republican efforts to change D.C. occupational licensing rules, prohibit the D.C. government from deducting union dues from paychecks and force the use of local funds to pay for private school tuition.
D.C. interests in recent years have been protected by the threat of a veto from President Obama, although even he once infamously sacrificed the city’s interests in a federal budget deal. Republicans are counting on his departure to aid their causes; we hope Mr. Trump will disappoint them in this and — no matter his opinion on these individual issues — see the bigger picture.
GOP principles of local control and smaller federal government are not served when members of Congress who are unanswerable to D.C. residents stick their noses into matters that they wouldn’t dare interfere with in their home districts. Do they really face no issues more pressing than whether the city can deduct union dues or regulate recreational marijuana use? Senate Democrats have promised, as Sen. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) put it, to fight “tooth and nail.” That should make Republicans, including the new president, weigh seriously whether they want to make such a priority of gutting democracy for the more than 600,000 people who make the nation’s capital their home.
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