Washington, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said another budget showdown between House Republicans and the White House could stall the drive for budget autonomy for the nation’s capital city in the event of a federal government shutdown.
In the past two months, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell have indicated their support, along with other Republican leaders, to finally give the District autonomy over its budget whenever the federal governments shutsdown. The Obama administration has committed to work to pass a budget autonomy bill.
But the March 20 release of a fiscal 2013 budget proposed by House Republicans is guaranteed to create intense wrangling with the White House, and the specter of a federal government showdown on Oct. 1 looms, threatening any autonomy deal.
In a statement released by her office, Norton said the Republican budget establishes a lower discretionary spending level for fiscal year 2013 than House Republicans agreed to last summer.
“By reneging on the deal, House Republicans have set up a fight over fiscal year 2013 spending, which could leave the D.C. government caught in the crossfire once again,” Norton said.
“Six months away from the start of the fiscal year, the House Republican budget sets us on an ominous path,” Norton added. “We must take action now to prevent a replay of the circumstances that led to near-shutdowns of the District government last April and December.”
Norton and allies in the House and Senate seek to give the District the authority to spend its local funds in any year in which Congress has not approved the District’s budget by the start of the fiscal year, as might occur during a federal shutdown.
President Obama requested that measure in his fiscal year 2013 budget, and took the unusual step of recommending actual legislative language guaranteeing the provision, similar to a bill Norton has introduced. While this authority will not provide the District with all of the benefits of budget autonomy, Norton said the District government would never again face the uncertainty and costs of a shutdown due to federal spending fights.