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U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican who heads the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, made local news this week by introducing legislation that would grant the District budget autonomy (except on abortion spending).

It’s not every day that Republicans suggest ceding some power to the District, and Issa’s proposal is, despite the abortion restriction, a step toward Mayor Vince Gray’s goal of taking more local control from Congress.

(On Wednesday, Gray, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Council Chairman Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown rejected Issa’s proposal.)

Issa indicated in May that he wanted to give the District some more say over its own finances, so this week’s proposal wasn’t a total surprise. Still, it looks like he was nudged along by some private lobbying on Gray’s part.

Emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that Gray met with Issa and Rep. Jo-Ann Emerson, a Missouri Republican who heads the committee that writes the federal spending bill that includes the city’s budget, in recent weeks. The meetings were set up by Tom Davis, a long-time District ally and former Republican House member from northern Virginia.

Gray and the lawmakers discussed District budget autonomy, says Gray’s chief of staff, Chris Murphy. Murphy says Davis, who now works at Deloitte, offered to act as a go-between for the mayor and the Republicans as a free favor, and the city took him up on the offer rather than paying to hire a lobbyist. (Every penny counts!)

Murphy declined to say why the meetings weren’t published on the mayor’s schedule. But what’s more curious is why the District’s lone elected representative on Capitol Hill, Norton, wasn’t at the meetings. One might think that Norton, a Democrat who has been the D.C. delegate for 20 years, might at least be present for meetings taking place on her turf.

But the emails appear to indicate that Norton wasn’t even invited. Her spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

LL won’t try and make too much out of Norton’s absence. But still, if the mayor didn’t think Norton needed to sit in on meetings with her influential colleagues, what does that say about Norton’s relevance?

Photo by Mike Madden