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 »
Just after President Obama finished his address to the DNC, Hillary Clinton walked out on stage to join him, so the better could share a few embraces, wave to the crowd—and let the cameras capture all the unity for posterity.
In a speech that began a bit like a State of the Union address, President Obama said the "country is stronger and more prosperous than it was" when he took office eight years ago. He then talked of battling Hillary Clinton for the nomination in 2008, and discovering her "unbelievable work ethic," before saying that no one—"not me, not Bill"—has ever been more qualified to be president. When his first mention of Donald Trump drew boos, he quickly admonished the crowd: "Don't boo. Vote." He then added that Trump is "not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy, either."
Tim Kaine introduced himself to the nation tonight, devoting roughly the first half of his speech to his own story (peppered with a little of his fluent Spanish) before pivoting to Hillary Clinton—and her opponent. "Hillary Clinton has a passion for children and families," he said. "Donald Trump has a passion, too: himself." His most personal line came after noting that his son Nat just deployed with his Marine battalion. "I trust Hillary Clinton with our son's life," he said.
Michael Bloomberg said he wasn't appearing to endorse any party or agenda. He was merely there to support Hillary Clinton. "I don't believe that either party has a monopoly on good ideas or strong leadership," he said, before enumerating how he disagreed with both the GOP and his audience in Philadelphia. "Too many Republicans wrongly blame immigrants for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on climate change and gun violence," he said. "Meanwhile, many Democrats wrongly blame the private sector for our problems, and they stand in the way of action on education reform and deficit reduction." Calling Donald Trump a "dangerous demagogue," he said, "I'm a New Yorker, and a know a con when I see one."
Vice President Biden tonight called President Obama "one of the finest presidents we have ever had" before launching into a passionate defense of Hillary Clinton. "Everybody knows she's smart. Everybody knows she's tough. But I know what she's passionate about," he said. "There's only one person in this race who will help you. ... It's not just who she is; it's her life story." But he paused to train some fire on her opponent "That's not Donald Trump's story," he said. "His cynicism is unbounded. ... No major party nominee in the history of this country has ever known less."