Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today said that her optimism has grown preventing future District of Columbia government shutdowns now that the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee has joined the call by the three other committees with jurisdiction over District to give the D.C. government the authority to remain open and spend its local funds in the event of a federal government shutdown. The committee's draft report to accompany the fiscal year 2013 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, which the committee will vote on tomorrow, acknowledges that the District government would face considerable hardships if it has to shut down due to a federal government shutdown and encourages the passage of legislation to avoid such shutdowns. Unlike the Senate Appropriations Committee-passed fiscal year 2013 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, the House bill does not include the specific language proposed by President Obama in his fiscal year 2013 budget, based on a Norton bill, that would allow the District government to remain open and spend its local funds in the event of a federal government shutdown. However, Norton said, "I am gratified that now all four committees with jurisdiction over the District have recognized the absurdity of shutting down the District government over unrelated federal spending fights. The District government should not have to spend local money or time preparing shutdown contingency plans, or face the prospect of defaulting on contracts or cutting off basic municipal services for D.C. residents, due to the inaction of the federal government on federal spending bills, as has been the case the last two fiscal years."
Last year, Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (which has jurisdiction over D.C.), announced his support for D.C. budget autonomy, which, of course, would avoid entangling the D.C. local budget in the federal appropriations process. Since then, President Obama's fiscal year 2013 budget has called on Congress to pass a budget autonomy bill; Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (which has jurisdiction over the District), and Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) have introduced a budget autonomy bill; and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA) and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) have indicated their support for budget autonomy.