Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today thanked the Democrats on the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives (BLAG) -- Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) -- for declining to join an amicus brief filed today by BLAG that expresses the view of the House that the District of Columbia budget autonomy referendum, approved by 83% of D.C. voters in 2013, is invalid. The BLAG, which consists of the five top members of the House leadership -- the Speaker, the majority and minority leaders, and the majority and minority whips -- articulates the institutional position of the House in all litigation matters in which it appears.
Norton, who asked Pelosi and Hoyer to decline to join in the filing, said, "As long as the city is divided on the legality of the referendum -- as exemplified by the D.C. Council's friendly declaratory judgment request for the courts to resolve the legal question -- Congress should not weigh in on the validity of the locally passed referendum."
There is bipartisan, bicameral support for budget autonomy in Congress, and the President supports it as well. In Congress, considerable progress has been made on budget autonomy, which is supported by, among others, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME); Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), chair of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over D.C.; Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), chair of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which has jurisdiction over D.C; Pelosi; Hoyer; House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA); and Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), chair of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has jurisdiction over D.C. Last month, Begich introduced a companion bill to Norton's budget autonomy bill, with Carper as a co-sponsor. President Obama's fiscal year 2015 budget would grant D.C. budget autonomy, and President George W. Bush indicated his support for budget autonomy in his fiscal year 2004-2006 budgets. In addition, Norton got a D.C. shutdown-avoidance provision included in the fiscal year 2014 omnibus appropriations bill allowing the city to spend its local funds and remain open in the event of a federal government shutdown in fiscal year 2015. The provision guarantees that, for the first time ever, D.C. will avoid a local government shutdown for an entire fiscal year. Furthermore, the Senate Appropriations Committee-passed fiscal year 2014 D.C. Appropriations bill would have granted D.C. budget autonomy. Last year, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed an Issa bill that has major elements of budget autonomy. He and Norton are working to perfect final language.