‘Will seriously hurt the District’: DC leaders react to restrictions in federal spending bill

The House Appropriations Committee received a joint letter from D.C. government officials on Thursday outlining how budget restrictions in a federal spending bill “do not make the District safer, nor do they make sound fiscal sense.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Attorney General Brian Schwalb and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, specifically targeted the “riders” — limits on funding that change established policy — proposed in the appropriations bill for financial services and general government.

The Republican-led subcommittee’s proposed bill includes long-standing federal budget restrictions on District issues like using local funds to help low-income people access abortion services, supporting D.C. needle exchange programs and creating a legal market for recreational marijuana sales.

D.C. leaders said the continued marijuana regulation restriction “is actually encouraging an underground illegal market at a time when possession and use are already permitted in DC and 23 states including adjoining Maryland and Virginia.”

But there were also new local restrictions in the $25 billion spending bill, like overturning the use of automated traffic cameras, the future ban on right turns at red lights and the Death with Dignity Act of 2016.

Bowser, Schwalb and Mendelson said those pieces of legislation are “quintessentially local issues beneath the importance of Congress’ time and attention.” They also called all the riders “anti-democratic” and “disrespectful of the rights of DC residents to self-governance.”

Overall, the three D.C. leaders said the riders and budget cuts in the proposed budget “jeopardize public safety, harm the public health, and will unbalance the District’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget.”

Schwalb released an additional statement before the appropriations bill markup on Saturday morning, discussing the health and traffic laws impacted by federal “micromanagement.”

“Out-of-state politicians elected hundreds of miles away who are not accountable to DC residents and who do not know or care more than taxpaying DC residents about our local affairs should not dictate or interfere with our local governance, period,” Schwalb said.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee passed the bill on Thursday with the D.C. budget restrictions and riders still intact. That bill will be considered by the full appropriations committee before getting a vote in the full House.

Emily Venezky

Emily Venezky is a digital writer/editor at WTOP. Emily grew up listening to and reading local news in Los Angeles, and she’s excited to cover stories in her chosen home of the DMV. She recently graduated from The George Washington University, where she studied political science and journalism.

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