The good news: Libraries and rec centers around the District are open today. The bad news: Congress is, once again, back in the “let’s tell D.C. exactly what it can and can’t do with its local tax revenue!” game.
Late last night, House Republicans, Senate Democrats, and the White House finally found an arbitrary number of billions of dollars that they could all agree to cut from the federal budget this fiscal year in order to keep it operating. Which meant D.C.’s government, treated for federal accounting purposes like any other agency of the U.S. government, also stays open. All the national pols around town congratulated themselves extensively last night for having gotten the best deal out of their adversaries that they could have.
Part of the price of getting the deal, though, was allowing a House-passed “policy rider” barring D.C. from using even locally raised revenue—like, the money you pay in sales taxes, D.C. income taxes, or fees for parking and other services—to allow the city’s Medicaid program to cover abortions. (Another rider, continuing the “Opportunity Scholarship Program” that gives federal money to some kids to go to Catholic schools and achieves mixed results, also remained in the bill.) There could be another local restriction, too: Around midnight, a senior House Republican source told City Desk it wasn’t clear whether another House-passed rider, which would have banned D.C. from using local funds to operate a needle exchange program for IV drug users—which could help cut the District’s abysmally high HIV infection rate—was part of the deal or not.
Which basically settles the question a lot of Washingtonians had about the new GOP House coming in: Would they stay true to their Tea Party-inspired rhetoric, and leave us alone the way they want the federal government to leave everyone alone? In retrospect, the answer was always obvious. So we’ll ask the same question we asked yesterday, when the shutdown was still a possibility: Canada, you want a southern outpost? Mer du mer, including the Anacostia!
Photo by Rob Pongsajapan via Wikimedia Commons