The District of Columbia’s non-voting member of Congress introduced a bill on Thursday that would protect the city’s operations in case the government shuts down amid partisan budget wrangling on Capitol Hill.
Democratic Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, said Congress appears ready to pass a spending package that would fund federal operations through September, before the continuing resolution that is keeping the government up and running expires on March 27.
But she said she wants to make sure the city can spend its local dollars at the start of the next fiscal year if federal lawmakers are unable to sign the District’s regular appropriations bill into law by October.
“Although the District government raises and manages an $8 billion local budget, Congress technically appropriates these local funds back to the District government, a holdover and throwback to the pre-home-rule period,” she said, referring to the city’s delicate relationship with federal overseers on the Hill.
Mrs. Norton reached a deal with Congress that lets the District spend its local dollars under continuing resolutions, although the city government would shut down when the resolutions expire. She said that makes it all the more vital for lawmakers on the Hill to pass a regular budget on time instead of relying on successive, short-term resolutions.
“I do not believe that any member of Congress wants to shut down the D.C. government and bring a large, complicated city to its knees due to a purely federal matter,” Mrs. Norton said Thursday. “Moreover, D.C. residents are not alone in relying on vital District government services. Federal officials, including the president, federal buildings, foreign embassies and dignitaries and businesses rely daily on the city’s services, as well.”
D.C. officials are pushing for a concept known as “budget autonomy,” which would allow them to spend their locally raised revenues without waiting on Congress to appropriate the dollars.