- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The White House’s fiscal 2017 budget request to Congress includes full funding to finish the Homeland Security Department complex in Ward 8 and removes a provision from the 2016 budget that keeps the District from regulating the sale of marijuana.

“President Obama’s final budget not only funds our major priorities for the District, but once again demonstrates the president’s full support of self-governance for the District with budget and legislative autonomy and the removal of all politically-motivated, anti-home rule riders,” said Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s non-voting representative in Congress.

The only problem: The $4.1 trillion proposal has virtually no chance of being approved unscathed in the Republican-controlled Congress. Even before the president’s budget was delivered Tuesday to Congress, the House and Senate budget panels said they would not hold hearings to discuss it and would offer their own versions in coming days.

Still, the White House plans to use the proposal as a “roadmap” for its priorities. It includes the eighth $150 million installment for Metro funding, $20 million for the District for costs associated with the 2017 presidential inauguration and $5 million to combat HIV/AIDS in the city.

One budget provision would remove the riders in the fiscal 2016 omnibus appropriations bill that bar the District from using local funds to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana and to provide abortion services for low-income women.

D.C. residents voted overwhelmingly for marijuana legalization in 2014, but congressional Republicans included a rider in the following fiscal year’s budget banning the District from regulating sales of the drug. City residents can legally possess up to two ounces of pot, which is still a federal crime.

The current D.C. law says no funds can be used to regulate the sale of marijuana. The Obama proposal would say that no “federal” funds can be used to regulate marijuana sales, giving the District the right to use local money.

The budget also would fully fund Homeland Security’s consolidation at St. Elizabeths in Southeast, the largest federal construction project in the nation. The project would receive $267 million in General Services Administration funding and $199 million in Homeland Security funding. It would allow three additional agencies within Homeland Security to relocate to the St. Elizabeths campus — the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Control.

Ms. Norton previously told The Washington Times that finishing the St. Elizabeths project would be boon to Ward 8 residents, creating jobs and bringing grocery stores and restaurants along with federal workers.

“As federal workers come, so come all the trappings they’re used to,” she said. “Federal workers don’t want to go where there’s no development. Most want commercial development. Federal workers demand that.”

The GSA echoed Ms. Norton, saying the project would attract new business to the area east of the Anacostia River.

“When completed, the new DHS headquarters will bring thousands of workers to the neighborhood to buy food and supplies, along with attracting consulting firms doing business with DHS to office space nearby,” the agency said in a Sept. 1 statement.

• Ryan M. McDermott can be reached at rmcdermott@washingtontimes.com.

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