D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine Credit: Darrow Montgomery/FILE

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The U.S. Senate passed a $2 trillion emergency relief bill last night—the largest economic bailout package in modern American history—that drew a collectively indignant response from District leaders.

Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Attorney General Karl Racine all responded with their own, more politically appropriate, version of: What the fuck is this shit?

The bill, which is expected to pass in the House, lumps the District in with five U.S. territories that will split a $3 billion pot of relief money based on population. D.C. is expected to receive about $500 million. Meanwhile, each state will receive $1.25 billion under the bill.

During a Thursday morning news briefing, Bowser said “the very idea of being treated like a territory is infuriating, it’s wrong, it’s outrageous.” She suggested that politics were “preventing the fair distribution of American dollars to help Americans.”

Mendelson sent a letter to Senators Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, signed by Bowser and the rest of the D.C. Council, asking that the District receive as much relief funding as states. 

“The District has the densest population of any state or territory which puts us at a higher risk for transmission of the virus,” the letter says. “We also have to work in unison with Maryland and Virginia — each of which will get at least $1.25 billion under the legislation. The District’s economy also is heavily dependent on tourism and hospitality, sectors that are disproportionately bearing the economic brunt of this crisis.”

Ahead of the Senate’s vote Wednesday night, Norton announced that she’d asked for the discrepancy, which she believed was an oversight, to be fixed. Apparently, she was not persuasive enough, and the Washington Post reported today that the District’s classification as a territory was intentional.

In a statement this afternoon, Norton blamed Republican politicking and pledged to fight to retroactively fix the discrepancy.

Racine went a step further and got a bipartisan group of 36 other attorneys general to sign on to a letter asking congressional leaders to kick the District a little more cash in these tough times.

“At bottom, the need in the District and the contribution of its residents to the federal fisc are significant,” the letter, co-signed by Montana’s Republican AG Tim Fox and 35 other AGs, says. “It is critical that the District receive the funding it needs to ensure adequate services to residents and businesses.”

“Ten Republican attorneys general say D.C. should not be considered a territory but should be considered a state for economic relief,” Racine tells LL.

In addition to Fox, the Republicans who signed on to the letter hail from Alaska, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

During the Thursday briefing, Bowser said the District is treated like a state in just about every other federal funding formula including housing, Medicaid, and eduction.

“We’re treated like a state because we have state functions, as we should be,” Bowser said. “We pay taxes, more taxes than 22 states.”

She added: “Right now all we have to do is focus on how for the next round of funding that this $725 million gap is made up.”

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