Republican Spending Bill Re-imposes D.C. Needle Exchange, Abortion and Voucher Riders, Eliminates Metro Funding, But Largely Spares D.C. Funding
February 12, 2011
Washington, DC-The Office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced today that the fiscal year 2011 full-year continuing resolution (CR) released by the House Republican majority yesterday violates the District's right to self-government by prohibiting the city from spending its local taxpayer-raised funds on needle exchange programs and abortions for low-income women, as well as by re-imposing the D.C. private school voucher program. However, the Tea Party-backed CR maintains fiscal year 2010 funding levels for some important District programs. Norton credits her friend, subcommittee chair Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), who has been a member of the subcommittee of jurisdiction since coming to Congress, for saving critical D.C. programs, particularly the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program (DCTAG).
"The irony of the CR is that while it tries to reduce the power of the federal government by making draconian funding cuts to most federal programs, it simultaneously expands federal power into the local funds and affairs of a local jurisdiction, the District of Columbia," Norton said. "The House bill, however, is only the first round in the CR process. I will be working closely with our friends in the Senate and with the administration to preserve our home-rule rights and dignity as a local jurisdiction. I am preparing amendments to remove the anti-home-rule provisions and to expose the Republican hypocrisy of slashing federal power in federal matters while using federal power to dictate local policy and local decisions on local funds." Norton said that the CR is not only wrong in its subversion of D.C. democracy, it is dangerous fiscal policy. "As we emerge from the recession, drastically reducing federal spending on domestic programs that Americans need more than ever today risks the "double-dip" recession we have most feared." She cited as an example the CR cut of the entire $150 million annual subsidy for Metro, which not only maintains and creates jobs, but also is critical for remedying the safety hazards that caused the 2009 Metro collision that took nine lives. Loss of this $150 million, the second installment of $1.5 billion authorized, also would mean that Metro would lose an additional $150 million that the federal appropriation leverages from the region.
The CR puts in sharp focus the new House majority's obsession with re-imposing the anti-home-rule riders Norton got removed during the last four years of Democratic control, as well as a hard-line approach that does not accept beneficial compromises. Last week, House Republicans denied Norton the right to testify at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on a harsh anti-choice bill with far-reaching negative consequences for the nation's women, which also contains a provision that would permanently prevent D.C. from spending its local funds on abortions for low-income residents. Norton said that the needle exchange ban the CR would re-impose "must be stopped in its tracks" because, beyond violating one of the District's lifesaving home-rule decisions, the ban was largely responsible for the District's having the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the country.
The CR is also the second attempt by House Republicans to reestablish the D.C. private school voucher program. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) introduced a D.C. voucher bill last month, which may be the only bill he introduces this Congress. Reestablishing the voucher program for new students ignores the compromise reached last Congress to allow every child now in the program to remain until graduation, and disregards the District's thriving home-rule public charter school system, which badly needs funds to meet the demand represented by long waiting lists. "Republican support for vouchers only in the District exposes their hypocrisy on vouchers and on school choice," Norton said. "They will not bring a voucher bill for the nation to the floor because polls and referenda in the states show there is zero national support for them. Instead, Republicans single out the District and only the District, ignoring the city's unique position in the nation in affording home-rule alternatives to our public school system that almost half our parents have selected. Residents support school choice, but they do not support Republican choices for our schools or on other issues in the CR."
Although the CR makes painful cuts to a modest federal contribution to the District, the bill maintains fiscal year 2010 funding levels for Norton's priorities, including her DCTAG, which has doubled college attendance here, and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, which provides critical supervision and services for residents returning from prison, both of which were funded at last year's levels with no reductions. There will be a number of cuts for fiscal year 2011, however, "that hit us where it hurts," Norton said. Among them are a reduction in housing for the homeless from $17 million to $10 million, a reduction in DCWASA's combined sewer overflow program from $20 million to $10 million, and a reduction in youth services from $4 million to $0.