D.C. Leaders: Give Us Our Money or Give Us Handcuffs

The shutdown’s put a spotlight on the District’s fight for autonomy, and some City Council members are ready to break the law.

A protester holds a placard as Washington, DC Mayor Vincent Gray speaks to the media after a news conference with members of the DC Council 'to call on the Senate and the administration to free DC's local budget during the federal government shutdown' at the Senate Swamp October 9, 2013.
National Journal
Lucia Graves
Oct. 11, 2013, 11:58 a.m.

The fed­er­al shut­down has put the Dis­trict of Columbia in the fa­mil­i­ar po­s­i­tion of polit­ic­al prop. This time, however, city lead­ers won’t sit for it.

“It’s a new at­ti­tude in D.C.,” coun­cil­mem­ber Dav­id Grosso told Na­tion­al Journ­al at an event hos­ted by the vot­ing-rights ad­vocacy group DC Vote earli­er this week. “We’re no longer go­ing to ask for per­mis­sion. We’re go­ing to stand up for our rights and spend our loc­al money.”

The prob­lem is that even while the city runs its own mu­ni­cip­al gov­ern­ment, it’s the only jur­is­dic­tion in the United States whose budget and rev­en­ues are con­trolled by Con­gress. For the past two weeks, the city has got­ten by by tap­ping an emer­gency re­serve, but those funds will run dry as early as Tues­day of next week, leav­ing city ser­vices such as schools, po­lice, and trash col­lec­tion in the lurch.

Re­pub­lic­ans have used D.C.’s ap­pro­pri­ations as a polit­ic­al wedge is­sue, vot­ing to al­low the city to spend its own funds after Demo­crats op­posed any piece­meal bills to re­store fund­ing to the gov­ern­ment. The may­or has sought to ne­go­ti­ate with con­gres­sion­al lead­ers, and even took a more ag­gress­ive ap­proach Wed­nes­day, con­front­ing Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Harry Re­id on the steps of the Cap­it­ol.

But Grosso says D.C. should not be ask­ing for per­mis­sion to spend its own money any­more, a move that would vi­ol­ate the fed­er­al An­ti­de­fi­ciency Act. He put D.C.’s fight for autonomy in a his­tor­ic­al con­text. “The biggest most vi­ol­ent de­bates we’ve had in this coun­try are sep­ar­a­tion of state and fed­er­al powers,” he said. “That’s been de­bated even pri­or to the birth of this coun­try.”

May­or Vin­cent Gray dis­missed Grosso’s ap­proach in an ad­dress Thursday night, ar­guing that vi­ol­at­ing the An­ti­de­fi­ciency Act un­der­mines D.C.’s mor­al au­thor­ity in ne­go­ti­ations with Con­gress. He also said such a move could make Dis­trict un­der­lings vul­ner­able. “Any­one who has a role in ob­lig­at­ing the Dis­trict to pay funds or dis­burs­ing those funds—people who let con­tracts, or ac­count­ants, or payroll of­ficers—could po­ten­tially be at risk of con­vic­tion for a fed­er­al felony that car­ries a max­im­um of two years in fed­er­al pris­on and a $5,000 fine,” the may­or said Thursday. Gray ad­ded that while he has “no prob­lem tak­ing these leg­al risks my­self,” he’s not com­fort­able put­ting his em­ploy­ees in leg­al jeop­ardy.

Grosso isn’t buy­ing it. “When you stand up for your­self and you stand up for what’s right no mat­ter what, you have great­er mor­al au­thor­ity,” he said in a fol­low-up in­ter­view Fri­day. “I don’t think it’s a very hard choice there,” Grosso said. “I’m will­ing to break that law.”

So far his po­s­i­tion has won the sup­port of half a dozen or so D.C. coun­cil­mem­bers, in­clud­ing Dav­id Catania, An­ita Bonds, Kenyan Mc­Duf­fie, Mary Cheh, and Tommy Wells.

“Who would they send to ar­rest us?” Grosso con­tin­ued. “The Cap­it­ol Hill po­lice? Who would ar­rest the people of the Dis­trict of Columbia for spend­ing their own money? I can’t fig­ure it out.”

Cor­rec­tion: an earli­er ver­sion of this story mis­spelled a coun­cil­mem­ber’s name.

What We're Following See More »
SHARES THEIR LOVE STORY
Bill Clinton Gets Personal in Convention Speech
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS

“In the spring of 1971, I met a girl,” started Bill Clinton. In his speech Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention, Clinton brought a personal touch, telling parallel stories of his relationship with Hillary Clinton and the work she has done throughout her career. He lauded the Democratic nominee for her career of work, touching on her earliest days of advocacy for children and those with disabilities while in law school, her role as Secretary of State, and her work in raising their daughter, Chelsea. Providing a number of anecdotes throughout the speech, Clinton built to a crescendo, imploring the audience to support his wife for president. "You should elect her, she'll never quit when the going gets tough," he said. "Your children and grandchildren will be grateful."

LOUD “BLACK LIVES MATTER” CHANTS RING OUT
Mothers Of The Movement Endorse Hillary Clinton
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

A coalition of mothers whose children lost their lives in high profile cases across the country, known as the Mothers Of The Movement, were greeted with deafening chants of "Black Lives Matter" before telling their stories. The mothers of Sandra Bland, Jordan Davis, and Trayvon Martin spoke for the group, soliciting both tears and applause from the crowd. "Hillary Clinton has the compassion and understanding to comfort a grieving mother," said Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin. "And that's why, in the memory of our children, we are imploring you — all of you — to vote this election day."

SOUTH DAKOTA GIVES HER CLINCHING DELEGATES
Clinton Officially Democratic Nominee for President
11 hours ago
THE DETAILS

With the South Dakota delegation announcing its delegate count, Hillary Rodham Clinton is officially the Democratic nominee for president, surpassing the 2383 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Clinton is expected to speak at the convention on Thursday night and officially accept the nomination.

THE QUESTION
How Many People Protested in Philly Yesterday?
15 hours ago
THE ANSWER

About 5,500, according to official estimates. "The Monday figures marked a large increase from the protests at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where even the largest protests only drew a couple of hundred demonstrators. But it’s a far cry from the 35,000 to 50,000 that Philadelphia city officials initially expected."

Source:
NO BATTLEGROUND STATES LEAN TRUMP
NY Times’ Upshot Gives Clinton 68% Chance to Win
15 hours ago
THE LATEST

Only a day after FiveThirtyEight's Now Cast gave Donald Trump a 57% chance of winning, the New York Times' Upshot fires back with its own analysis that shows Hillary Clinton with a 68% chance to be the next president. Its model "calculates win probabilities for each state," which incorporate recent polls plus "a state's past election results and national polling." Notably, all of the battleground states that "vote like the country as a whole" either lean toward Clinton or are toss-ups. None lean toward Trump.

Source:
×