Norton Headway on Anti-Home-Rule Riders Gives Her Momentum for Removing Most of Them From Final Spending Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Although the fiscal year 2018 D.C. Appropriations bill passed by the House today contains five anti-home-rule riders, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said she believes she will be able to keep most of them out of the final spending bill, which must be passed by December 8. The Senate version of the fiscal year 2018 D.C. Appropriations bill has not been introduced, but even under Republican control the last two fiscal years, the bill has contained zero anti-home-rule riders. Although the House blocks most amendments from being offered on the floor, Norton was able to get a vote on two of her amendments to the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bills—one to strike the rider repealing D.C.’s budget autonomy referendum, and another to prohibit the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) from carrying out a law that requires individuals in halfway houses and on home confinement to pay a subsistence fee to offset the cost of being housed or supervised. D.C. Code felons are the only local felons housed by BOP, action the city took to offset some costs of state functions. Norton’s subsistence fee amendment received three Republican votes, which she wants to build on because every Member has constituents housed by BOP who must pay these counterproductive fees. Her budget autonomy amendment was defeated on a party-line basis, as expected.
“House Republicans express endless love of local control of local affairs, their central party principle, except when it comes to the District of Columbia,” Norton said. “They preach the constitutional principle of federalism, yet use the big foot of the federal government to undemocratically overturn and block local D.C. policies they disagree with, solely on a political basis. Fortunately, by working with Democratic leadership in the Senate and House, as well as national organizations with members across the nation, we are able to have success in defending many D.C. local laws and the democratic rights of our nearly 700,000 taxpaying residents.”
Norton was able to get 11 Republicans to break from their party and vote with her against an amendment that blocks D.C. from spending its local funds to carry out a local D.C. anti-discrimination law, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA), giving her a good chance to once again keep this rider out of the final spending bill, as she has done the last two fiscal years. RHNDA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees, their spouses and dependents based on their reproductive health decisions. The House has now voted three times since 2015 to either nullify or block D.C. from spending its local funds to carry out RHNDA.
The House-passed fiscal year 2018 D.C. appropriations bill also contains riders to repeal D.C.’s medical aid-in-dying law, the Death with Dignity Act (DWDA), and to block D.C. from spending its local funds on abortion services for low-income women and on taxing and regulating marijuana sales. The House Rules Committee blocked Norton from offering her amendments on the floor to strike the abortion, marijuana and DWDA riders, even though the amendments complied with House Rules.
This is the first time either chamber has voted to repeal the DWDA. The Senate did not take up the disapproval resolution to nullify the DWDA, and the House DWDA disapproval resolution was never brought to the floor after it was passed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Norton believes her amendment to strike the DWDA rider would have received bipartisan support, including from some of the 24 House Republicans from states where medical aid-in-dying is legal, including two Members from House leadership.
The House has now voted three times since May 2016 to repeal the budget autonomy referendum, but it remains law. Norton said Republican Members and the right-wing groups that scored the vote on the amendment to strike the budget autonomy repeal misrepresented the effect of the referendum, as Speaker Paul Ryan did when the House last year voted on a stand-alone bill to repeal the referendum. Ryan said: “There are real consequences. The D.C. government wants to use revenues to fund abortions in the District. House Republicans will not stand for that.” However, as Norton argued on the House floor, Congress loses nothing under our budget autonomy law. Congress retains the authority to legislate on any D.C. matter, including its local budget, at any time. Riders in the bill prohibiting D.C. from spending its local funds on marijuana commercialization and abortion services for low-income women were changed from those in prior appropriations bills to account for the referendum. Historically, D.C. riders applied only to funds included in appropriations bills, because only appropriations bills authorized D.C. spending. In the bill, as in fiscal year 2017, the riders apply to D.C. local funds available under any authority, including those in the local budget passed under the referendum.