Victory had already been declared by the time I arrived at DC Vote’s election-night party on the roof of The Brixton on U Street NW after 10 p.m., and the crowd had thinned out. But a celebratory odor of cigar smoke hung over the intimate gathering: More than 83 percent of voters said yes to the ballot initiative amending the Home Rule Charter to allow the D.C. government to spend its own tax revenue without approval from Congress. “It’s a pretty powerful number,” said James Jones, the communications director of DC Vote (and a former Washington City Paper staff member).
Congress will have 35 days to review the measure, but Jones said he isn’t too worried about pushback from Capitol Hill. “We haven’t heard anyone level a specific threat,” he said, adding that the measure’s popularity among District voters—-and Congress’ unpopularity nationwide—-might deter lawmakers from taking on the issue. It probably doesn’t hurt that Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican who chairs the committee with oversight over D.C., has shown favorable interest in granting D.C. more budget autonomy. Nevertheless, Jones said DC Vote has prepared for a fight on the Hill or in court (D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan has expressed skepticism over the charter amendment’s legality). “Anytime you’re taking steps to change a relationship like this, it’s not going to be easy,” Jones said.
So who are the 6,126 District voters who said no to D.C. budget autonomy? “Everyone has a right to their opinion,” Jones said. “I can’t say, honestly.”