Today marked an historic moment moving in the direction of DC statehood. In an unprecedented move, the Senate’s fiscal year 2015 District of Columbia Appropriations Bill granted D.C. budget and legislative autonomy. This marked the first time ever that an appropriations bill has granted both authorities to the District.
After a bruising fight for several weeks in the House on the D.C. appropriations bill, where gun and marijuana decriminalization riders were added, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton said she especially appreciated that the Senate bill is free of all anti-home-rule riders.
“After the House last week passed the most anti-home-rule DC appropriations bill we have seen in many years, the Senate bill, together with the President’s statement of administration policy on the House bill, sends a strong signal that Democrats not only respect DC’s right to self-government, but they want to expand DC home-rule authority,” Norton said. “We will need the President and Senate Democrats to fight for DC’s home-rule rights as the final DC appropriations bill is negotiated.”
The Republican-controlled House-passed fiscal year 2015 DC appropriations bill prohibited DC from spending its local funds on abortions for low-income women, to decriminalize or legalize marijuana (an amendment sponsored by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md)) and to enforce its local gun laws (an amendment sponsored by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky).
“I have worked hard to achieve this since I took office. I express sincere thanks to Senators Barbara Mikulski, Tom Udall, and Mike Johanns as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for working with my administration and recognizing the District’s right to self-governance and home rule,” DC Mayor Vincent C. Gray issued in a press release.
“The Senate Subcommittee’s actions demonstrate that they hear and value the voices of the more than 647,000 District residents. I look forward to continuing to work with President Obama, leadership of both the House and Senate, and our allies until we achieve the autonomy the District deserves.”
DC statehood advocates, budget and autonomy supporters and marijuana legalization activists put forth a vicious social media and street campaign to send a strong message that interference in local politics will not be tolerated. In preparation, full-fledged demonstrations were held on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, including blocking main arteries in the areas.
“We are grateful for this action to save both our local gun laws and marijuana decriminalization laws. But we must note again that this is but a quick and temporary fix until full DC Statehood is won,” said Anise Jenkins, executive director of “Stand Up! for Democracy in DC (Free DC).
DC Vote and dozens of supporters bombarded Harris’ congressional office today with local complaints and concerns after he blurted out that every member of Congress and the Senate was elected to serve the District’s local needs.
“If Rep. Harris thinks he knows best how to run DC, he can handle our routine constituent service requests,” said James Jones, communications director for DC Vote.
The Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on the House’s DC Appropriations bill stated the administration “strongly opposes” the Bill’s prohibitions on the District’s spending of its local funds to implement its local marijuana policies and to provide abortions to low-income women because they violate the “principle of states’ rights and of District home rule.”
The SAP also “urged the Congress to adopt” the provisions in the President’s fiscal year 2015 budget that would grant DC authority to spend its local funds without congressional approval and set its own fiscal year (budget autonomy), as well as permit DC legislation to take effect upon passage by the DC government (legislative autonomy).
The SAP was issued immediately before the House bill was considered on the floor. The Massie DC gun amendment was offered during the floor consideration of the bill, so the SAP was issued before the amendment was offered.
“We refuse to give up. We will continue to push for an amendment of the Constitution to give us statehood until we have achieved it. We encourage all Americans to stand up for DC. Don’t just talk about it, do something,” Jenkins said.