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A little more than a month after she told them they had “no ‘complete authority’” over her, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton will push back on congressional Republicans this week by introducing amendments designed to preserve home rule. House Republicans, meanwhile, have drafted a few measures aimed at D.C.’s gun and civil rights laws.
With the House of Representatives set to vote again on a federal appropriations bill that blocks budget autonomy, Norton’s office says the delegate and her allies will attempt to render the District’s fiscal freedom from Congress as law through a legislative package. Three amendments she will file concern the 2013 ballot referendum where District residents approved budget autonomy four-to-one; two others would eliminate “riders” that curb D.C. from spending funds to legalize the sale of marijuana and provide abortion access. They’re sure to be a hard sell in a Republican-dominated House that voted 240 to 179 to maintain control over the District’s purse last month.
“If members want to step all over D.C. home rule and our right to self-government, I am going to force them to do it on record and in front of the American people,” Norton said in a statement.
Republicans will likely counterbalance the delegate’s efforts with more anti-home rule proposals. Alabama Rep. Gary Palmer has drafted language against the District’s civil-rights statutes, while Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie has drafted measures targeting its gun laws: one would allow open and concealed carry, the other guns near schools.
Asked to comment on his amendments in light of last Sunday’s Orlando massacre—the worst mass-shooting in U.S. history—Massie said in a statement that “gun control is not the solution.”
“The only practical way to have prevented this tragedy is by eliminating gun free zones where security is inadequate to protect law abiding citizens who are otherwise capable, willing, and endowed (by their Creator with the right) to defend themselves,” he continued. “I introduced these amendments to reduce the likelihood of a similar tragedy in D.C.” (Massie has sought to block D.C.’s gun laws before.)
As for budget autonomy, a D.C. Superior Court judge upheld it in March, following a protracted legal dispute. But House Republicans have argued before and since that Congress has the final say on how the District spends its dollars, based on the Constitution. Norton’s amendments would repeal the 2013 referendum and codify it in federal law, permitting D.C. to budget its local tax funds without active federal approval every year.Norton’s office says she’ll testify on her proposals at a House Rules Committee hearing tomorrow, at 5 p.m.
“Republicans claim to support devolving federal authority to state and local governments,” Norton plans to say on Tuesday. “That support should not end at the D.C. border. The Constitution allows, but does not require, Congress to legislate on local D.C. matters. You have a choice. In our American democracy in the 21st century, the choice should not be difficult.”
This past weekend, District leaders wrapped up a three-day “constitutional convention” soliciting input from residents on the framework for a would-be state. The D.C. Council will vote on a constitution after officials incorporate comments.
You can read Norton’s amendments here.
Update, 5:20 p.m.: In a statement, Norton criticized House Republicans for what she effectively characterized as political opportunism. “With no regard for families in Orlando who are still in shock, Representatives Palmer and Massie are shamelessly using the D.C. appropriations bill to act out discrimination and personal gun preferences at the expense of D.C. residents,” she said. “Instead of promoting discrimination against D.C.’s LGBT students, Representative Palmer should have the decency to support the devastated LGBT community after last week’s heinous hate crime and terrorist attack. Representative Massie recklessly envisions people carrying, openly or concealed, guns in the nation’s capital, risking the lives not only of our residents, but of the countless high-profile national and global figures who frequent our streets and public places.”