Shutdown’s Silver Lining for the District

The shutdown underscores the case for D.C. statehood.

National Journal
Lucia Graves
Oct. 10, 2013, 8:16 a.m.

At first glance, the shut­down of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment is dis­astrous for the Dis­trict of Columbia. While the city runs its own mu­ni­cip­al gov­ern­ment, it’s the only jur­is­dic­tion in the coun­try whose budget and rev­en­ues are con­trolled by Con­gress. And while the city has con­tin­ued to op­er­ate nor­mally dur­ing the shut­down by tap­ping an emer­gency re­serve, those funds will run dry as soon as next week, af­fect­ing schools, trash col­lec­tion, and oth­er city ser­vices.

Due to its des­ig­na­tion as a fed­er­al en­clave, D.C. has long been dis­en­fran­chised and dis­em­powered. But what’s dif­fer­ent this time around is that the cap­it­al has at­trac­ted na­tion­al at­ten­tion.

“It’s very simple,” D.C. May­or Vin­cent Gray told Na­tion­al Journ­al at an event hos­ted by the vot­ing-rights ad­vocacy group DC Vote on Wed­nes­day night, which at­trac­ted the at­ten­tion of re­port­ers from sev­er­al na­tion­al out­lets. “It’s our money and we want to have ac­cess to our money, our budget dol­lars. All they have to do is say here is the au­thor­ity to spend your own money.”

Elean­or Holmes Norton, the House’s non-vot­ing del­eg­ate from Wash­ing­ton, came to the event straight from a private Demo­crat­ic caucus meet­ing with Pres­id­ent Obama where she scol­ded him for not pri­or­it­iz­ing the city even as its on the “brink of dis­aster.”

“It is my ob­lig­a­tion to speak up for this city wheth­er to the pres­id­ent of the United States or to Re­pub­lic­ans,” Norton told re­port­ers Wed­nes­day. “That’s ex­actly what I’ve been do­ing.”

GOP law­makers have sought to use D.C.’s ap­pro­pri­ations as a polit­ic­al wedge is­sue against Demo­crats, vot­ing to al­low the city to spend its own funds after Demo­crats op­posed any piece­meal bills to re­store fund­ing to the gov­ern­ment. That’s an ap­proach that would al­low the city to spend its money.

Norton said the pres­id­ent asked her wheth­er she really be­lieves Re­pub­lic­ans had the Dis­trict’s pri­or­it­ies at heart. She re­spon­ded that frankly, she didn’t care.

“What do I care?” she said. “Sure it’s for their con­veni­ence, but what dif­fer­ence should that make to the Dis­trict of Columbia?”

At-large D.C. coun­cil­man Dav­id Grosso had a more rad­ic­al agenda, telling Na­tion­al Journ­al in an in­ter­view that what some coun­cil mem­bers had ad­voc­ated is that the Dis­trict of Columbia should no longer ask for per­mis­sion to spend its own money, which would be a vi­ol­a­tion of the fed­er­al An­ti­de­fi­ciency Act. “My guess is that Eric Hold­er, as a D.C. nat­ive and res­id­ent, would prob­ably not come after us with pen­al­ties, so we should there­fore go ahead and do it,” he said.

“It’s a new at­ti­tude in D.C.” he ad­ded. “We’re no longer go­ing to ask for per­mis­sion. We’re go­ing to stand up for our rights and spend our loc­al money.”

Grosso com­pared D.C.’s fight for state­hood to the fight for civil rights, say­ing it took work­ing both in­side the sys­tem and out­side the sys­tem to bring change. “It’s rad­ic­al be­cause it’s civil dis­obedi­ence,” he said. “It’s ac­tu­ally the most dir­ect form of civil dis­obedi­ence. In­dir­ect is when you block the streets and say we want our rights. Dir­ect is when you ac­tu­ally do something that moves for­ward the is­sue that you care about.”

In past years Gray and mem­bers of the D.C. Coun­cil have been ar­res­ted protest­ing un­just riders in fed­er­al spend­ing bills. City coun­cil­wo­man Mary Cheh, who rep­res­ents Ward 3 in the Dis­trict, says she’d like to see something like that this time around. “I’m quite com­fort­able with de­fi­ance,” she told Na­tion­al Journ­al, adding, “It’s an oc­ca­sion to call at­ten­tion rather prom­in­ently to the cir­cum­stances that we have to live un­der.”

What We're Following See More »
LEGACY PLAY
Sanders and Clinton Spar Over … President Obama
1 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama became a surprise topic of contention toward the end of the Democratic debate, as Hillary Clinton reminded viewers that Sanders had challenged the progressive bona fides of President Obama in 2011 and suggested that someone might challenge him from the left. “The kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans, I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama,” she said. “Madame Secretary, that is a low blow,” replied Sanders, before getting in another dig during his closing statement: “One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate.”

THE 1%
Sanders’s Appeals to Minorities Still Filtered Through Wall Street Talk
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

It’s all about the 1% and Wall Street versus everyone else for Bernie Sanders—even when he’s talking about race relations. Like Hillary Clinton, he needs to appeal to African-American and Hispanic voters in coming states, but he insists on doing so through his lens of class warfare. When he got a question from the moderators about the plight of black America, he noted that during the great recession, African Americans “lost half their wealth,” and “instead of tax breaks for billionaires,” a Sanders presidency would deliver jobs for kids. On the very next question, he downplayed the role of race in inequality, saying, “It’s a racial issue, but it’s also a general economic issue.”

DIRECT APPEAL TO MINORITIES, WOMEN
Clinton Already Pivoting Her Messaging
3 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

It’s been said in just about every news story since New Hampshire: the primaries are headed to states where Hillary Clinton will do well among minority voters. Leaving nothing to chance, she underscored that point in her opening statement in the Milwaukee debate tonight, saying more needs to be done to help “African Americans who face discrimination in the job market” and immigrant families. She also made an explicit reference to “equal pay for women’s work.” Those boxes she’s checking are no coincidence: if she wins women, blacks and Hispanics, she wins the nomination.

THE QUESTION
How Many Jobs Would Be Lost Under Bernie Sanders’s Single-Payer System?
11 hours ago
THE ANSWER

More than 11 million, according to Manhattan Institute fellow Yevgeniy Feyman, writing in RealClearPolicy.

Source:
WEEKEND DATA DUMP
State to Release 550 More Clinton Emails on Saturday
11 hours ago
THE LATEST

Under pressure from a judge, the State Department will release about 550 of Hillary Clinton’s emails—“roughly 14 percent of the 3,700 remaining Clinton emails—on Saturday, in the middle of the Presidents Day holiday weekend.” All of the emails were supposed to have been released last month. Related: State subpoenaed the Clinton Foundation last year, which brings the total number of current Clinton investigations to four, says the Daily Caller.

Source:
×