House Votes to Block D.C. From Covering Abortions, Enforcing Gun Laws, Decriminalizing Marijuana

The House voted for a D.C. budget bill that includes restrictions on hot-button issues.

The U.S. Captiol dome is seen before work begins on a two-year, $60 million rnovation of March 19, 2014 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
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Sam Baker
July 16, 2014, 1:35 p.m.

The House voted Wed­nes­day to stop Wash­ing­ton, D.C., from us­ing its own money to provide abor­tion cov­er­age, en­force loc­al gun laws, or de­crim­in­al­ize small amounts of marijuana.

Al­though D.C. passes its own or­din­ances, Con­gress has the power to block many of the city’s de­cisions through spend­ing bills. And that’s pre­cisely what happened Wed­nes­day, in the an­nu­al ap­pro­pri­ations bill for fin­an­cial ser­vices and “gen­er­al gov­ern­ment,” in­clud­ing D.C.

The abor­tion fight is a long-run­ning one. Be­cause of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment’s con­trol over D.C.’s budget, it can block the Dis­trict from us­ing its own funds to cov­er abor­tion in its Medi­caid pro­gram. States, by con­trast, are not al­lowed to spend fed­er­al funds on abor­tion cov­er­age but can use their own money to in­clude it in their Medi­caid pro­grams.

Ad­di­tion­ally, this year’s D.C. spend­ing bill in­cludes an amend­ment from Rep. Thomas Massie, a Ken­tucky Re­pub­lic­an, that pro­hib­its the Dis­trict from us­ing any money to en­force its loc­al gun laws, which in­clude a ban on as­sault weapons and large magazines, a wait­ing peri­od, and a ban on car­ry­ing con­cealed weapons.

The bill also pro­hib­its D.C. from im­ple­ment­ing a re­cently passed meas­ure the lowers the fines for pos­ses­sion of small amounts of marijuana.