- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A D.C. spending bill passed the first of two hurdles this week when it emerged from a Senate subcommittee without any amendments that would restrict local officials from spending city money on controversial social programs.

The bill heads for the full Senate Committee on Appropriations on Thursday, after members of the subcommittee on financial services and general government did not attach any amendments, or riders, prohibiting spending on locally funded abortions, needle exchanges or other programs.

However, D.C. home rule advocates remain guarded against restrictions passed down from Capitol Hill. Earlier this year, officials girded for intrusions on the city’s burgeoning medical marijuana program or online gambling through the D.C. Lottery, although neither has been touched by Congress so far.

One such rider, to prevent the District from using federal and local dollars to fund abortions for low-income women, was included in a short-term spending measure in April and also submitted by the House Appropriations Committee over the summer.

The working version of the Senate budget bill contains a provision prohibiting the spending of federal dollars earmarked for the District on abortion, but it contains no restrictions on the city spending money from its own coffers for such purposes.

The House bill also forbids the District from using federal dollars for its medical marijuana program or needle exchange.

Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, the ranking Republican on the financial services subcommittee, said Wednesday he is uncertain if any of his colleagues plan to introduce an abortion rider during the full committee markup of the Senate’s version, but he noted he has supported such measures in the past.

Asked if other riders could be expected, he said, “None that I’ve been made aware of.”

Nonetheless, representatives of the advocacy group D.C. Vote said they are “preparing for yet another round of assaults on the rights of citizens living in the District of Columbia.”

The Senate bill cuts its funding to the District by nearly 6 percent compared with fiscal year 2011, part of across-the-board cuts to federal agencies and programs.

By comparison, the House bill cuts funding to the District by almost 10 percent.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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