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Brian Bilbray, D.C.'s new Congressional overseer. (Brian Bilbray's flickr stream)

UPDATE, 1:30 p.m. – Whoops: Mike DeBonis is reporting that Bilbray’s been removed from the Oversight Committee, which means we don’t know who’ll be in charge of the District’s fate come January.


The GOP golden boy, a favorite of new Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa, proved too ambitious for the grunt assignment of overseeing D.C.—last Friday, Jason Chaffetz landed the higher-prestige subcommittee that oversees the Department of Homeland Security. According to Dave Weigel, the House Committee on the District of Columbia will likely be helmed by Rep. Brian Bilbray, who has represented the 50th District of California since 1994 (with a break from 2001 to 2006).

Should D.C. residents feel better about this?

On the plus side: While the 50th District doesn’t encompass the city of San Diego, it’s decidedly more urban than Chaffetz’ domain, which means that Bilbray might have a better understanding of the issues cities face. Bilbray also prides himself on his environmental record, which means he may be supportive of things like efforts to clean up the Anacostia, and perhaps even push the feds to pay their stormwater fees.

But on issues of District autonomy, the signs are not good. Bilbray voted to ban banning needle exchange and medical marijuana in D.C., and cosponsored legislation that would have repealed a raft of restrictions on gun ownership in D.C., before the Supreme Court did it for him.

As far as his philosophy on Congress’ relationship with the District, we have some remarks from a hearing back in September on legislative autonomy for D.C. Perhaps because he was gone from D.C. during its turnaround years, he still seems to think of the District as a crime-ridden reservation that still needs Congressional parenting, and was even “appalled” that District residents would have the gall to oppose freeways being rammed through their neighborhoods. In his questioning of D.C. Appleseed director Walter Smith, Bilbray said:

This is my chance to say something about this. I was absolutely appalled when I came here in the 1990’s and saw what appeared to be the gross abuses of local control by the local community. Freeways were not allowed to go through because of Ward politics. Maybe it is because I am a Californian that I can’t comprehend the ability of politics to stop a freeway dead in its tracks, not just once but twice. Though, I have seen it happen.

The other thing I have just got to tell you is, Mr. Smith, that this District was created for a special reason. This little area between the Anacostia and the Potomac called Turkey Buzzard Point was chosen to be a no man’s land from political influences from the outside or from within, much like we do with our military reservations, too.

But I see the effect of the lack of appropriate control of the jurisdiction. I have staffers who resign and go home because they have been attacked, they have been threatened, or they have almost been murdered. I am constantly reminded as a former local government official that the Constitution does give us the ability to authorize jurisdiction but not responsibility. The Constitution still lays that right in our lap. This is one of those things that Congress can’t say is out of its jurisdiction. The big difference is that the same Constitution that gives States that jurisdiction—and the States are the ones that give cities their local control, not the Constitution. The Constitution does not take away that local control from other cities. It did in this one, in this city.

So there is an issue here of the appropriateness of authorizing jurisdiction and thinking we can walk away from the
ultimate responsibility of young ladies being attacked, roads not being completed, the congestion, and everything else that is our responsibility.

Oh, also he wants to make sure everyone knows that “no taxation without representation” isn’t a Constitutional issue. More from the hearing:

Mr. Bilbray. I would just like to give the Mayor the chance to clarify because I don’t think he wants to leave here leaving the impression of a statement he made. I think he misspoke and you don’t want to read about it later. You made a reference to “no taxation without representation” being in the Constitution. Do you want to clarify that you did not mean that clause is in the Constitution?
Mayor Fenty. Well, as you are well aware, Congressman, our country was founded upon the principle that citizens of the country would not be taxed without having—-
Mr. Bilbray. Mr. Mayor, I just wanted you to clarify the record that you didn’t mean the Constitution.
Mayor Fenty. Point well taken.
Mr. Bilbray. You meant it was basically a—
Mayor Fenty. Point well-taken.
Mr. Bilbray. OK. Thank you. I just wanted to make sure we get on that so you don’t—
Mr. Lynch. The gentleman is still recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. Bilbray. Thank you. I appreciate that.

Whew, sounds like a winner! Alright D.C., you’re in for a fun two years (at least).