Mary Cuthbert2

Along with other D.C. officials and residents, Ward 8 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Mary Cuthbert wants Congress to stay out of District affairs. (Courtesy photo)

Incensed by congressional Republican interference in the affairs of the D.C., city leaders and residents are taking matters into their own hands to confront Congress regarding the District’s Death and Dignity law.

The latest episode to upset District residents was the Feb. 13 passing of a bill that would nullify the city’s “Death with Dignity” law that was passed by the D.C. Council and signed into law by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) in 2016. Bowser (D) expressed disappointment that the House of Representatives House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed legislation against the D.C. Council’s support of physician-assisted suicide.

“In passing H.R. 27, the led by Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R), sent a signal to D.C. residents that Congress has zero respect or concern for their will or the will of their elected officials,” the mayor said. “This is yet another attempt by this House Committee to trample the autonomy of the D.C. government and undermine our local control granted through Home Rule.”

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) said that in order for “Death with Dignity” to be nullified, the GOP bill would have to be approved by the House, the Senate and signed by President Trump by Feb. 17. Norton said that the nullification of “Death with Dignity” is unlikely to happen, but she is keeping an eye on what other tricks her Republican colleagues may pull.

“Although we are close to accomplishing our goal of defeating this disapproval resolution and preserving the District’s local legislation, we are not counting our chickens quite yet,” the delegate said.  “We are keeping the pressure on House Republicans and reminding them that 24 of their House members, including two members of House leadership, are from the six states where medical aid in dying is legal.  I am particularly encouraged by the continuous action of D.C. residents, who are letting Congress know through their calls, tweets, and visits that they are sick and tired of being treated like second-class citizens and having their local democratic rights violated.”

Even though several Black leaders in the District have voiced concerns about the bill, such as Dr. Omega Silva, a physician, the Rev. Joyce Scott and Ward 8 advisory neighborhood commissioner Mary Cuthbert, the hot button issue is not so much the bill, but outrage with the fact that Congress is meddling in D.C.’s local affairs.

“Congress needs to mind their own business and leave D.C. alone,” Cuthbert said.

If Congress and the White House signed onto the anti-Death with Dignity bill, it would mean that physician-assisted suicide in the city would be unlawful. While the District has limited Home Rule, its laws are subject to review by Congress, which doesn’t take place in other cities and states.

District leaders and residents expressed their frustration with Congress on Feb. 13 when they held a rally on the U.S. Capitol grounds. Bowser, members of the D.C. Council and the District’s attorney general were at the rally and voiced their opposition to congressional meddling.

D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) attended the Capitol Hill rally and convened an organizing meeting later that day at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street, N.E. Allen said it was good to see D.C. political leadership united on an issue.

“We don’t always stand together,” he said. “We are facing an unprecedented threat. Members of Congress are overturning our laws. It doesn’t matter whether that you support Death with Dignity. You should have the right to hold the person who voted for it accountable, not the Congress.”

Allen encouraged audience members to join his #HandsOffDC effort and go on social media to talk about congressional meddling, put a sign in their homes and businesses, call Chaffetz with their concerns, write an op-ed for a local newspaper of a member of Congress and write a letter to members of Chaffetz’s committee.

“We will do more than protest and hold a rally,” Allen said. “People want to take action. We will be organizing for the next couple of months and years.”

“I am angry with what Republicans are trying to do to my city,” Josh Williams, a retired leader of the Metropolitan Washington AFL-CIO told the {AFRO}. “I pay my taxes in my city and I pay my taxes to my country. We residents put our lives on the line and yet we are treated like second-class citizens.”