The Office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced that the fiscal year 2013 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, which the Senate Appropriations Committee approved yesterday, includes major victories for the District of Columbia, including a provision that would prevent the city from shutting down if the federal government shuts down, and would allow D.C. to place its Frederick Douglass statue in the U.S. Capitol, a longstanding Norton priority. The bill also funds key Norton initiatives, including the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant (DCTAG) program, the Anacostia River, her top environmental priority, and HIV/AIDS treatment for D.C. residents, and does not contain any anti-home-rule riders. "Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) and Subcommittee Chairman Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), who led the D.C. appropriations bill, have passed one of the most impressive D.C. appropriations bills in years," Norton said. "I am grateful for their leadership and outstanding, continued commitment to the District of Columbia and its right to govern itself."
The bill contains a provision from President Obama's fiscal year 2013 budget request, based on a Norton bill, that would allow the District to spend its local funds at the start of a fiscal year if Congress has not approved the District's budget by then, thereby preventing future D.C. government shutdowns over unrelated federal spending fights. If enacted, D.C. would never again have to spend money and time preparing shutdown contingency plans, or face the prospect of defaulting on contracts or cutting off basic municipal services to D.C. residents, due to the inaction of the federal government. Norton said that the "no shutdown" language for D.C. is vitally important. While the provision would represent historic progress for D.C. home rule, it does not provide all of the benefits of budget autonomy. Norton is continuing to work with Republicans and Democrats on passing a budget autonomy bill.
The bill would also allow the District to place its Frederick Douglass statue in the Capitol, becoming the third African-American statue or bust there, out of 120 on display, along with Martin Luther King Jr. and Sojourner Truth. The District's Frederick Douglass statue has been on display at One Judiciary Square since 2008 and D.C. will be responsible for all costs associated with transportation and placement of the statue in the Capitol.
The bill also would fund critical D.C. programs, including $35.1 million for DCTAG, an increase of $5.1 million from fiscal year 2012, which Norton got through Congress in 1999 to provide higher education opportunities for D.C. students equal to those available to other Americans by granting D.C. students up to $10,000 annually for in-state tuition at any U.S. public college and up to $2,500 annually to attend private colleges in D.C. and the region. DCTAG has doubled college attendance rates in D.C., now up to 60 percent -- 10 points above the national average. The bill also includes $20 million each for D.C. public and public charter schools; $5 million for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment; $15 million for her top environmental priority, the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority's Clean Rivers Project to reduce combined sewer overflow and restore the Anacostia River; $24.7 million for emergency planning and security costs associated with national events and demonstrations, at least $9.8 million of which is to cover costs associated with the next presidential inauguration; $500,000 for tuition for D.C. National Guard soldiers; and $9.8 million to help start D.C.'s redevelopment of the East Campus at St. Elizabeths in Ward 8. The Senate Appropriations Committee-passed Homeland Security Appropriations bill provides the full $89 million requested by President Obama for the continued development of the Department of Homeland Security headquarters on the St. Elizabeths West Campus. The House approved $34.5 million for the headquarters project.
Last November, 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. 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.