Shutdown’s Silver Lining for the District

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

National Journal
Lucia Graves
Add to Briefcase
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 »
THE PRESIDENT’S POCKET
16th Charity Cancels Function at Mar-a-Lago
1 hours ago
THE LATEST
EARLY SEPTEMBER
Senate Plans Two Hearings on Health Insurance
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The Senate health committee will hold two hearings early next month on how the nation’s individual health insurance marketplaces can be stabilized, as party leaders grasp for a fresh path following the collapse of the Republican effort to repeal and replace much of former President Barack Obama’s health care law. GOP and Democratic leaders are exploring whether they can craft a bipartisan but limited bill aimed at curbing rising premiums for people who buy their own insurance. In many markets, consumers are seeing steeply rising premiums and fewer insurers willing to sell policies."

Source:
OVER N. KOREA NUCLEAR PROGRAMS
U.S. Imposes Sanctions on 16 Companies
2 hours ago
THE LATEST
After Collisions, Navy to Suspend Some Operations
6 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The U.S. Navy announced a pause in its global operations and patrols and has begun a broad investigation after the destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a merchant vessel, leaving 10 sailors missing, the second such incident in as many months."

Source:
“ZERO CHANCE” OF DEFAULT
Mnuchin, McConnell: We’ll Raise Debt Limit
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell predicted Congress will raise the country’s debt limit in time to prevent an unprecedented default." Speaking at a Kentucky event, Mnuchin said, “Everybody understands, this is not a Republican issue, this is not a Democrat issue. We need to be able to pay our debts.” McConnell echoed him, saying there's "zero chance" the ceiling doesn't get raised.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login