Norton Scores D.C. Victories in Final House Spending Bills
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today listed major victories for the District of Columbia in the House’s final - fiscal year (FY) 2021 appropriations bills.
Norton achieved her priorities in the House-passed FY 2021 D.C. Appropriations bill, including $40 million for the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program (DCTAG); prohibiting the president from federalizing the D.C. police department; $52.9 million for emergency planning and security costs related to the federal presence in D.C., including the next inauguration; and $8 million for the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) for ongoing work to control flooding in the city and clean up the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers and Rock Creek.
Among other important achievements in the D.C. bill, Norton was able to defeat an amendment that would have blocked D.C. from spending its local funds on abortions for low-income women, like many jurisdictions have long done. In addition, Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD) offered an amendment that would have blocked a proposed ballot initiative to make the possession of entheogenic plants and fungi among the D.C. police department’s lowest enforcement priorities. Harris withdrew the amendment after debate on it, knowing it would fail.
Key Provisions in the D.C. Bill:
- The bill prohibits the president from federalizing the D.C. police department in FY 2021. Until the D.C. statehood bill, pending in the Senate, becomes law, the D.C. Home Rule Act permits the president to federalize the D.C. police department. In June, during largely peaceful protests in D.C., the Trump administration threatened to federalize the D.C. police department.
- The bill provides $40 million for DCTAG, which has been the enacted level in the last five fiscal years, paying for D.C. students to attend state colleges in all 50 states, but, with Democrats in control of the House, also repeals the provision in the enacted FY 2019 spending bill that reduced the family income eligibility limit from $750,000 to $500,000.
- The bill has no anti-home-rule riders. In particular, it removes the two enacted fiscal year 2020 riders, which Norton has long opposed — prohibitions on the District’s use of its local funds on abortion and on recreational marijuana commercialization.
- The bill allows the District to spend its local funds under the Local Budget Autonomy Act, which means that the local budget passed by the D.C. Council and signed by the mayor can take effect after a congressional review period, like all other local D.C. bills. If enacted, this bill would be the first since enactment of the Home Rule Act allowing D.C. to spend its local funds without a congressional appropriation of such funds.
- The bill exempts the D.C. government from federal government shutdowns in FY 2022. Norton has gotten annual shutdown exemptions enacted every year since the 2013 federal government shutdown.
- The bill provides $8 million for DC Water for ongoing work to control flooding in the city and clean up the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers and Rock Creek, the same as the enacted FY 2020 level; an extra $4 million to combat HIV/AIDS in D.C., the same as the enacted FY 2020 level; and $413,000 for the Major General David F. Wherley, Jr. District of Columbia National Guard Retention and College Access Program for tuition for D.C. National Guard soldiers, the same as the enacted FY 2020 level.
- The bill provides $52.9 million for emergency planning and security costs related to the federal presence in D.C., including the next inauguration.
- Norton is disappointed that the bill allows new students to enroll in the private school voucher program Congress imposed uniquely on the District but is pleased that the bill contains her provision requiring participating voucher schools to comply with federal civil rights laws. This Republican-imposed program has failed to improve academic achievement, as measured by math and reading test scores. The D.C. voucher program is the only federally funded voucher program in the U.S. Republicans have repeatedly voted against authorization of a national private school voucher program.
Other Spending Bills Containing D.C. Measures
In other appropriations bills, Norton accomplished other priorities for the District. She secured $345 million for the Department of Homeland Security consolidation project at St. Elizabeths and $150 million for Metro. She also secured report language permitting sledding on Capitol grounds; encouraging the National Arboretum to improve public access; directing the Federal Railroad Administration to continue working with the District on the Union Station expansion plan and to consider the feedback of all stakeholders, including residents of affected neighborhoods, in its planning process; encouraging the General Services Administration to give the National Children’s Museum and other congressionally designated museums free rent; and prohibiting the Federal Bureau of Prisons from charging subsistence fees for returning citizens in halfway houses and on home conferment.
The House Appropriations Committee passed all 12 of the appropriations bills and the House passed 10 of them.