The District of Columbia has long wanted budget autonomy from Congress, which currently controls the city government’s budget. Congressman Darrell Issa of California has drafted a new bill to give the city that autonomy, provided it doesn’t spend taxpayer funds on abortions.
Issa, as the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, included a provision in the bill to ensure the District doesn’t fund abortions for low-income women with taxpayer dollars. Multiple media reports today indicate local elected officials may oppose the bill — putting funding abortions on a higher priority than getting their wish for budget autonomy.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Mayor Vincent Gray, both Democrats, have strenuously opposed decisions by Congress to prevent Washington, D.C. from funding abortions with taxpayer dollars — and they expressed that outrage earlier this year when Speaker John Boehner reached a budget deal with President Barack Obama that included restoring the ban on taxpayer funding of abortions in the nation’s capital.
The DC abortion funding ban restored the Dornan amendment to ensure that no congressionally appropriated funds (whether locally or federally generated) may pay for abortion in the District of Columbia. The policy was in place from 1996-2009. Then, Democrats approved an omnibus spending bill lifting the 13-year-long ban on directly paying for abortions in the nation’s capital and Obama eventually signed the measure.
Gray was upset by the deal that he was arrested along with three dozen pro-abortion activists. Gray’s opposition is part of the position he took campaigning for the position saying he would vociferously protest anything that stood in the way of D.C. autonomy. As a result, he and 41 pro-abortion activists were arrested for blocking traffic outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
“I am tired of being a pawn in a political game,” Gray said, egging on the crowd of more than 100 people. “This is an absolute travesty.”
Under Issa’s bill, the District of Columbia can begin spending its own money after its mayor and city council approve the budget — without having to wait from approval from Congress.
“Its design reflects a desire to work with District leaders on legislation that can achieve passage in both the House and Senate,” Issa spokesman Frederick Hill told the Washington Post.
Norton issued a carefully-worded statement that appeared to avoid the abortion issue.
“We received a proposal from Chairman Issa’s staff this morning, apparently at the same time they provided it to the media,” Norton said in a statement. “We appreciate that Chairman Issa has followed up on his statements at a May hearing that he wanted to give the District of Columbia more authority over its local budget and fiscal year and to avoid future shutdowns of the District government over federal spending fights.”
Gray spokeswoman Linda Wharton Boyd told the Post the mayor “is aware that the pro-life movement placed a lot of pressure on Congressman Issa to continue the prohibition on using local dollars for abortion.”