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 »
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."
Conrad Burns, the colorful livestock auctioneer and radio executive from Montana who served three terms as a senator, died on Thursday at age 81. Burns "was ousted from office in 2006 under the specter of scandal after developing close ties to "super-lobbyist" Jack Abramoff," although no charges were ever filed.