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Mayor Vince Gray will crash a Senate press conference to try to get money for the District during the shutdown. He’ll tap the city’s rainy day fund. But the one thing he won’t do, he said yesterday, is break a law that’s never been enforced.

Gray devoted part of his Thursday rally at Friendship Public Charter School to shooting down the idea that he’ll spend the city’s locally raised money without a congressional appropriation, which would be a violation of the federal Antideficiency Act. But the audience seemed to wish he’d go farther: His explanation of how he could hypothetically break the law got some cheers.

“I don’t shrink from anything, all right?” Gray replied.

Breaking the law would undermine the city’s moral case for budget autonomy and expose District employees to prosecution, according to the mayor. “I have no problem taking these legal risks myself, but it’s not right for me to put our employees in legal jeopardy,” Gray said.

LL isn’t convinced. Gray’s nightmare situation of city employees sitting in the pen for allocating funds is hard to believe, given that the Antideficiency Act has never been tested and that a Democratic attorney general—who’s close with various District officials—might not be all that inclined to prosecute a Home Rule-related violation of it.

Instead, Gray asked audience members to ask the president and members of the Senate to pass an appropriations bill or a District-focused continuing resolution. If the contingency fund runs out next week before the shutdown ends, Gray says he could declare a state of emergency to tap another source of funds.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery