SIMMONS: In D.C. budget battle, another who’s-in-charge decision awaits

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The D.C. Council filed a lawsuit Thursday against Mayor Vincent C. Gray, accusing him of failing to carry out his duties regarding the Local Budget Autonomy Act. The complaint says “the Council is entitled to pass a budget designating local expenditures of local funds, and only passive review — as opposed to an affirmative act — by Congress is required for that budget to become law.”

The law followed a successful voter referendum and became binding after the mayor signed it and a bipartisan Congress did not reject it, as was their constitutional prerogative.

The mayor and his supporting executive crew sniffed out that the council was peeved, so the lawsuit came as no surprise.

Now, here we go again, awaiting a who’s-in-charge court decision.

The council has several legal legs to stand on as it is, in fact, the branch of government to make laws. The executive branch is responsible for carrying out those laws, whether the mayor likes and agrees with them or not.

Unlike Congress and the White House, the District’s lawmakers and executives are rarely at loggerheads. Suffice it to say, city hall is the quaint place where Democrats get to pretend discourse and debate while collecting six-figure salaries.

The timing of this court case is not coincidental either, as lawmakers and pro bono lawyers have been discussing such a filing for some time. Now that the mayor has submitted his budget, the primaries are over and it’s time for the two branches to begin squabbling over spending priorities, well, bazinga.

Also, the plaintiff is seeking a speedy docket, not wanting to wait until midsummer to learn on whose side a judge might rule.

As it is, lawmakers don’t have any hard work scheduled on the online docket for Easter week, and God forbid they would have to be on standby this summer while the court ponders their case.

Moreover, this is an election year, and candidates really and truly can’t multitask pounding the pavement for votes in a steamy Washington summer, pretending to be working 24/7 and trying to jet out of town for a vacay.

Speaking of laws and lawsuits:

While Democrats are locked in a power struggle, Republicans are trying to muscle their way into city hall.

D.C. GOP chief Ron Phillips said D.C. stakeholders are fed up that a Democratic stronghold in the city rejects “dissenting opinion” as out of hand and “stifles political debate.”

“You should always want to engage the other side,” Mr. Phillips said during an interview with me on WPFW-FM. “There’s no division of ideology,” he said of D.C. Democrats.

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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