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Norton Continues Multiple Efforts to Keep D.C. Open, Will Offer Amendment and Testify at Rules Committee Today


Location: Washington, DC

As she continues to work on multiple fronts to prevent a District of Columbia government shutdown, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today will offer an amendment and testify at the House Rules Committee on the House's continuing resolution (CR), which would reopen the federal government until December 15, 2013, to permit the D.C. government to spend its local funds and remain open for all of fiscal year 2014 (September 30, 2014). The committee meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:40 p.m.

"Whatever the vehicle, D.C. needs to be allowed to spend its local funds for the rest of the fiscal year," Norton said. "The current delay has left D.C. hanging by its fingernails as its contingency funds run out this week. At great hardships to residents, providers of direct services and charter schools, D.C. has been forced to ration payments on a day-by-day, case-by-case basis, by for example, ceasing payment to all Medicaid providers. If the federal government shuts down on December 15, D.C. may not have any of these contingency funds left and would have to shut down along with the federal government. Even if the federal government does not shut down, forcing D.C. to operate on CRs, receiving its annual local funding in doses, with no certainty, builds in extra cost and creates enormous uncertainty that makes ordinary planning, contracting and payment of bills a lottery of guestimates."

Earlier this month, the House passed a bill that would permit the D.C. government to spend its local funds until December 15, 2013. However, the White House issued a veto threat on the bill and Senate Democratic leadership expressed opposition. Both could not be convinced at the time to distinguish between local funds and passage of federal spending bills as the Republicans passed appropriations bills on a partial basis. Over the weekend, Norton worked closely with the White House, House Republican leadership and Senate Democratic and Republican allies to reach a compromise on keeping the D.C. government open, and those negotiations continue. The Senate is expected to consider its own continuing resolution. Norton has called on Senate Democratic leadership to include a provision in the Senate's CR that allows D.C. to spend its local funds for all of fiscal year 2014.

The President and the Senate Democrats have previously supported preventing D.C. government shutdowns. The President's fiscal year 2013 budget contained a provision that would permanently prevent D.C. government shutdowns, and the Democratic-led Senate Appropriations Committee-passed fiscal year 2014 D.C. Appropriations bill contained the same provision.

Norton's statement as prepared for delivery follows.

Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

House amendment to the Senate amendment to H.J.Res. 59
House Committee on Rules
October 15, 2015

Mr. Chairman, I come before this committee, as I did last month, to try to amend the continuing resolution (CR) to permit the District of Columbia government to spend its local funds for all of fiscal year 2014, and not only until the expiration of the CR (December 15, 2013), so that the D.C. government does not shut down, or incur the expense of preparing for a shutdown, when the CR expires. The committee rejected my previous amendment. However, circumstances have changed dramatically since then. The federal government did, in fact, shut down, and the D.C. government has been operating on previously appropriated contingency reserve funds, which are rapidly dwindling, forcing the D.C. government to ration payments on a day-by-day, case-by-case basis, such as stopping payment to all Medicaid providers. If the federal government shuts down on December 15, the D.C. government may not have any of these contingency funds left and would have to shut down along with the federal government.

Last month, I met with Majority Leader Eric Cantor and asked him to bring a bill to the floor to keep the D.C. government open during a federal government shutdown. I strongly supported the House-passed H.J.Res. 71, which would allow D.C. to spend its local funds and remain open during a federal government shutdown until December 15, 2013. I deeply regret that the Obama administration issued a veto threat on the bill and that the Senate Democratic leadership opposed it because they failed to distinguish between local funds and passage of federal spending bills on a partial basis. Despite support from both Republican and Democratic friends in the Senate, we were unable to get the House-passed D.C. bill, or something like it, passed in the Senate.

Even before House passage of H.J.Res. 71, House Republicans had gone on record supporting preventing D.C. government shutdowns. In fiscal year 2013, a House Appropriations Committee report acknowledged the harms of a D.C. government shutdown and called on the authorizers to pass legislation to prevent D.C. government shutdowns. On October 1, 2013, during floor debate on H.J.Res. 71, Representative Hal Rogers, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Representative Ander Crenshaw, the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, which has jurisdiction over D.C., both made a strong case for keeping the D.C. government open during federal government shutdowns. I will quote at length from their floor remarks. Chairman Crenshaw argued, "Now, the District of Columbia has passed their own fiscal year 2014 budget. The Mayor presented a budget to the city council. The city council debated that. The city council approved, and the city's independent chief financial officer certified the budget as balanced. So, therefore, the District's locally raised funds should not be withheld from them during this current Federal shutdown. This disagreement that the Republicans and the Democrats are having over Federal spending shouldn't stop the District from using its own locally raised funds like any other city in America. The District is currently using reserve balances to stay open. However, we can't expect the District of Columbia to deplete all of its cash reserves to make up for the Federal Government's inability to pass a Federal budget. We've got school teachers out there, we've got policemen, we've got firemen, we've got garbage collectors, we've got librarians, we've got all these city employees, and they're paid with D.C. local funds, and they should expect to be paid for their services. The citizens of the District of Columbia, they shouldn't suffer because Congress and the administration can't agree on a budget. So this continuing resolution fulfills our responsibility under the law to appropriate the District of Columbia their local funds….We shouldn't penalize the people of the District of Columbia because we can't come to some conclusion on our spending bills. We don't have to be here…."

Chairman Rogers similarly said, "These funds will support critical District programs that its people rely on--law enforcement, safety, schools, and other essential municipal activities. I can't believe that I'm hearing opposition to this from that side of the aisle--or any side of any aisle."

If the District of Columbia government exhausts its previously appropriated contingency funds, a federal government shutdown on December 15, 2013, would bring this large, complicated city to its knees. If the District government shuts down, basic state and municipal services would cease or be curtailed. Not only do the more than 600,000 D.C. residents rely on these services, but so do our constituents who visit or work in the city, private sector businesses, federal officials, federal buildings and foreign embassies. District financing agreements could be terminated, further impacting city services and sending the city's borrowing costs soaring. Furthermore, successive CRs greatly hinder the operations of the District government. Not only do they 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.

I urge you to follow the precedent the House set in passing H.J.Res. 71 and adopt my amendment to prevent a D.C. government shutdown in fiscal year 2014.

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