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“He can rally a lot of support around the idea,” Mr. Evans said. “It’s up to Issa. I don’t know the man, but I respect the ideas he throws out there.”

But there are plenty of stumbling blocks along the way. A federal appeals court ruled in 2005 that the District must obtain permission from Congress to impose a commuter tax. If federal lawmakers gave their blessing, the city would have to direct employers to withhold the tax through council legislation or executive rulemaking, according to a council aide.

Mr. Evans said any revenue from a commuter tax should not be dumped into the city’s general fund. Rather, he said, the funds should be earmarked for infrastructure improvements or other pressing needs.

To help things along, Mr. Evans said the federal government probably should subsidize the tax for 10 years or for some other set period. Ultimately, the city will have to convince its neighbors to see eye-to-eye with its plight.

“The District of Columbia subsidizes some of the richest counties in America — Montgomery and Fairfax,” Mr. Evans said. “They just have to come into the real world someday.”

Emily Hatton contributed to this report.