- Military bans troops from Baptist church event honoring ‘God’s Rescue Squad’
- ‘Pocket drones’: U.S. Army developing tiny surveillance tools for the next big war
- Belgian cafe posts sign: Dogs allowed, but Jews stay out
- Gen. Dempsey: Pentagon studying Russian readiness plans not viewed ‘for 20 years’
- John McCain: Botched, two-hour execution of murderer is ‘torture’
- House GOP ready to move border bill
- Bomb squad called after live WWII artillery washes on Cape Cod beach
- HAYDEN: Intelligence, evidence and the case against Russia
- Ohio university quiz implies atheists are naturally smarter than Christians
- Rep. Henry Cuellar on border crisis: ‘Playing defense on the one-yard line’
Congress slowly loosens grip on D.C.
Question of the Day
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton didn’t flinch when comedian Stephen Colbert congratulated her on the District of Columbia’s becoming a state.
“Not quite,” she replied during a segment on his show not long after President Obama’s election.
Mr. Colbert may have been joking, but with Democrats in control, Congress seems increasingly willing to loosen its grip on Mrs. Norton’s city and allow it to function more like a state. That’s no laughing matter for some 600,000 city residents.
Congress still must OK the D.C. budget, and it can veto laws the D.C. Council passes, though that’s rare. And despite some optimism early in Mr. Obama’s administration, Mrs. Norton still can’t vote on the House floor, though she can introduce bills and vote in committees.
But cracks in congressional control have started to appear.
For the first time in recent memory, Congress didn’t attach any restrictions, called “riders,” when it approved the city’s budget in December. That lifted bans preventing the city from using tax money to help poor women pay for abortions and implementing a decade-old measure legalizing medical marijuana.
And though Congress could have killed a gay marriage bill passed by the D.C. Council, federal lawmakers allowed it to become law without weighing in. Same-sex couples started applying for marriage licenses Wednesday, though a three-day waiting period means they can’t actually get married till next week.
Now, Congress is considering bills that would give the city even more freedom. Mrs. Norton, who was elected in 1990 and represents more people than live in Wyoming packed into a city 1/17th the size of Rhode Island, calls it a “moment of opportunity.”
Three-quarters of Washington’s registered voters are Democrats. Now that Democrats hold the House, Senate and presidency for the first time since 1992, there’s support for letting go of some federal control.
Mrs. Norton has introduced two bills to give the city more control over its affairs. The first would eliminate the requirement that Congress approve the city’s budget. The second would allow city laws to go into effect immediately, instead of waiting for 30 or 60 days for a congressional all-clear, as in the case of the same-sex-marriage law.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty testified that the budget process often causes delays in services to residents. Most of the hundreds of laws he signs every year, from adoption to zoning, “are of no interest to Congress whatsoever,” he said.
Longtime residents are used to Congress having the ultimate say. Gary Thompson, a lawyer who has lived in the District of Columbia since 1992, said it seems that every couple of years some momentum to change that takes hold, then stalls.
“I’m a little bit hardened and a little bit cynical at this point,” said Mr. Thompson, who heads a neighborhood group and said he will advocate for civil disobedience, such as blocking entrances to government buildings, if things don’t change soon.
The U.S. Constitution makes it clear the city is under congressional control. City residents didn’t get the right to vote in presidential elections until 1961. In the 1970s, residents got the delegate spot in Congress and the right to elect their own mayor and council.
Change is slow, however. Mrs. Norton predicted on Mr. Colbert’s show a year ago that she would soon be a full voting member; Mr. Colbert called her a “fake congresswoman.” But momentum to give her voting powers stalled when an amendment was added in the Senate that would repeal a strict city gun-registration requirement, something Democrats did not want.
Mrs. Norton said she believes she may now have found a way around the amendment and will get the bill passed early this year.
Lifelong resident Jenica Degree, who works at a store that sells political memorabilia, isn’t convinced that having a voting congresswoman would change much. Not having one “really doesn’t bother me,” she said.
TWT Video Picks
Second- and third-stringers eye 2016 if front-runner stumbles
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- Russia shipping sophisticated weapons systems to Ukraine separatists
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- 'Pocket drones': U.S. Army developing tiny spies for the next big war
- Michelle Obama says money in politics is bad, asks donors for 'big, fat check'
- EDITORIAL: Detroit's water 'spigot bigots'
- John McCain: Botched, two-hour execution of murderer is 'torture'
- Brian Kelly, Notre Dame ready for different route to title
- White House readies for House GOP impeachment push: 'Foolish' to ignore
- Presidents of Honduras, Guatemala blame U.S. for border children crisis
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq