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No, really! In a “statement of administration policy” prepared by the Office of Management and Budget, White House staffers say they would recommend that the president veto a bill before Congress designed to eliminate D.C. budget autonomy. More than 80 percent of District voters supported its fiscal independence from Capitol Hill via a 2013 referendum, a decision which was upheld this March by D.C. Superior Court. Advocates contend that decision is now law. The bill, proposed by North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, is set to go to the House floor tomorrow for a vote.
“The Administration strongly supports home rule for the District and the President has long called for authority allowing [it] to spend its own local taxes and other non-Federal funds without congressional approval,” the SAP reads.
“The Administration is disappointed that the Congress has failed to provide elected leaders in the Nation’s capital the most basic authority to spend local tax collections without congressional approval, an authority held by local officials across the Nation. Subjecting the District to the lengthy and uncertain congressional appropriations process for its use of local tax collections imposes both operational and financial hardships on the District, burdens not borne by any other local government in the country. The residents of the District and their elected leaders deserve to have the same ability as other U.S. residents and elected leaders to determine how to use their local revenues to address their unique needs. Such authority is fundamental to a well-functioning democracy, and the Congress denying the District this authority is an affront to the residents and elected leaders of the District.”
Whether Obama gets the chance to veto the bill depends on whether it clears the Senate, which has more Democrats than the House does proportionally. At the same time, congressional Republicans appear to have a Plan B for stalling D.C. budget autonomy through their own budgeting process. A draft budget the House Appropriations Committee plans to review on Wednesday would repeal the District’s budget autonomy act as well as its fiscal year 2017 local budget.
D.C. hasn’t even finalized its budget for next year; the D.C. Council anticipates to vote on it a second time next week. As D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton‘s office pointed out in a release earlier today, the proposed budget contains several “anti-home-rule riders” limiting funds for abortions, the full legalization of marijuana, and needle exchanges.
“Budget autonomy has tremendous benefits for the District’s finances and daily operations, and Congress would lose nothing,” the delegate said in a statement on Tuesday. “The White House’s veto threat will give us momentum as we battle to keep the repeal bill from moving in the Senate or being attached to an omnibus later this year.”
You can read Congress’ draft budget here.
Correction: This headline has been updated to reflect that the president may, at the urging of his advisors, veto the bill. It originally stated that the White House would veto the bill.