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A Republican-dominated U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal D.C. budget autonomy and block the District from enforcing other local laws on Thursday, 239 to 185, and with nine abstentions—a roll call largely along party lines.
The approval of the federal appropriations bill follows weeks of local handwringing. Republicans who supported language repealing a 2013 referendum where more than 80 percent of District residents backed fiscal independence from Congress have said it subverts the Constitution. D.C. denizens, including Mayor Muriel Bowser and members of the D.C. Council, retorted that budget autonomy is the law of the land.
The Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act now goes to the Senate. On top of repealing local budget autonomy, the House-sanctioned version maintains a ban on regulating marijuana and restrictions that make it harder for low-income women to access abortions. But unlike last year, the 2017 House bill also blocks the District from enforcing a municipal law introduced by At-Large Councilmember David Grosso that protects employees from discrimination on the basis of their reproductive-health decisions. (In 2015, the Senate did not move forward this rider.)
In a statement, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said she was “disappointed” that congressional Republicans had put “several harmful anti-home-rule riders” into the current legislation. “We will face problems removing them in the Senate, but the hypocrisy of Members who swear by the principal of local control over local affairs is not as widespread there. I am already working with our Senate allies and the Obama Administration to remove the four anti-home-rule riders from any final spending bill that becomes law.”
The provisional repeal of D.C.’s Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act drew particular scorn from advocates for women’s rights. In a statement, Grosso said it was time for Congress to “stop meddling in the local affairs of the District of Columbia” and focus instead on serious national issues like gun control. New York Rep. Nita Lowey criticized Republicans’ efforts to overturn RHNDA, calling them “especially harmful and destructive.”
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue called out Republicans’ “lip service to supporting women.”
“Their actions speak louder than their rhetoric, and with today’s vote, they continued their relentless campaign to rob women of our reproductive freedom and enshrine discrimination into our laws,” she said in a statement.
The White House Office of Management and Budget has recommended that President Barack Obama veto the appropriations bill if it were to appear before him in its present form. The vote comes as D.C. leaders push for statehood, an item that could appear on the 2016 Democratic Party platform.