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The Introduction of the District of Columbia Government Shutdown Avoidance Act of 2013

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to offer the District of Columbia Government Shutdown Avoidance Act of 2013 to eliminate the prospect of a District of Columbia government shutdown on September 30, 2013, or ever again. This bill is essential because a new fiscal year is upon us and D.C.'s local, balanced budget, which has been approved by the House and Senate Appropriations committees, has not reached the floor in either house. Frequent shutdown threats to the local D.C. government have been costly and disruptive to the city government, its employees and its residents, including many federal officials and employees who reside in the District. This bill would add to existing authorities the city has long had to spend its local funds by permanently authorizing the District government to spend its local funds in the event of a Federal Government shutdown and therefore remain open.

Because of the uncertainty and adverse effects on the city caused by increasingly frequent shutdown threats, I am taking several actions to try to prevent a D.C. government shutdown at the end of the month. I begin by introducing this bill. I must take action now because some Republicans are threatening to block a new spending bill when the current bill expires on September 30 unless the new bill defunds the Affordable Care Act, which could lead to a shutdown of both the Federal and District governments, and because the House is scheduled to be in session for only five days before September 30. In case my bill is not enacted in time, I will also offer an amendment to the fiscal year 2014 short-term continuing resolution (CR) (H.J. Res. 59) to authorize the District government to spend its local funds for all of fiscal year 2014, and not only until the expiration of the CR on December 15, 2013, so that the city does not face a shutdown threat again when the CR expires in December.

The D.C. government should never have to wonder whether it will be shut down. I do not believe any Member wants to shut down the D.C. government and bring a large, complicated city to its knees because of a purely federal matter. Indeed, there is bicameral, bipartisan support for preventing D.C. government shutdowns. In July, both the Republican-led Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Democratic-led Senate Appropriations Committee approved larger bills that contained the provision in this bill that would permanently authorize the D.C. government to spend its local funds during a Federal Government shutdown. The President's fiscal year 2013 budget also contained the shutdown-avoidance provision. The report accompanying the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee-passed fiscal year 2013 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill also acknowledged the harm of District government shutdowns.

The bill would permanently protect the more than 600,000 residents of the District of Columbia and the Federal Government from an unintended catastrophe in any future Federal Government shutdown. The District of Columbia raises and manages an $8 billion local budget, but Congress technically appropriates these funds back to the District, an anachronistic holdover and throwback from the pre-home-rule era. Several years ago, Republican appropriators and I reached a bipartisan agreement to approve the District government's local budget in CRs, until the expiration of those CRs, allowing the District government to spend at next year's level, if the District government's regular appropriations bill has not been signed into law by the start of a fiscal year. We are grateful that this agreement has been honored through Democratic and Republican Congresses and administrations. This agreement has enabled District officials to operate complex, big-city functions more effectively than during the many years when the city's local budget was approved by Congress months after the start of a fiscal year. However, last Congress, we saw the limits of even this helpful agreement when the Federal Government almost shut down on multiple occasions, and we are facing a shutdown again this year.

If the District government shuts down, in addition to the vital municipal services that would cease, the District could default under certain financing agreements and leases. Tourists to this city, your constituents, not to mention federal officials, federal buildings, foreign embassies and dignitaries and businesses, rely daily on the city's services. Furthermore, forcing D.C. to operate under successive CRs greatly hinders the operations of the District government. Not only do successive CRs make it difficult for the city to plan its activities for the year, successive CRs greatly increase the city's costs of doing business. The city's partners, from Wall Street to small vendors, may charge it a risk premium due to the uncertainty created by successive CRs. These are not results the Congress envisions or desires as we approach the end of the fiscal year. Our bill would once and for all remove the Nation's Capital from the entanglement in federal matters and disputes for which the city has no blame or involvement.

I urge my colleagues to support the bill.

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