In a stinging rebuke to efforts by the District of Columbia to fully govern itself, a Congressional committee on Tuesday nullified the results of a legitimate city election and then declared that D.C. officials can never spend local tax dollars without Congressional approval.
Republicans on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed a bill to block the city from enacting a ballot measure that was approved by D.C. voters, confirmed by a court and endorsed by President Obama to let the District spend its own tax money, much like one of the 50 states.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) supports the bill, which could go to the full House as early as next week. It’s unclear if it would be approved in the more closely divided Senate, but proponents could incorporate it into federal budget measures that must pass before the end of the year, possibly paralzying some city spending.
The 22 to 14 party line vote marked a new level of animosity between Republicans on Capitol Hill and D.C.’s mostly Democratic leaders who have been agitating for full statehood and voting representation in Congress.
In a split screen moment, as House lawmakers were voting on Tuesday, the D.C. Council was proceeding with the very act that Congress was trying to prevent. It was approving a $13-billion budget which it planned to implement, unless halted by a judge or an act of Congress.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the subcommittee with oversight of the District — and the author of the bill — cited the Constitution, which gives Congress “supreme authority” over the District.
“It really comes back to the constitutional intent of our Founding Fathers,” Meadows said. “Whether you agree with local control or not, it doesn’t allow a local municipality to usurp the Constitution.”
But Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) said the discussion of history was a smokescreen.
“This is about raw, political power being imposed on American citizens who do not have a voting voice here in the U.S. Congress,” Connolly said.