Vote Explanation for H.R. 5233 — Clarifying Congressional Intent in Providing for D.C. Home Rule Act of 2016
This week, I voted against H.R. 5233, which would repeal and permanently prohibit a District of Columbia referendum that allows the city to implement its own local budget.
In 2012, the Local Budget Autonomy Amendment Act (BAA) was adopted by the D.C. Council (Council) and was then ratified in a referendum by 83 percent of the District’s voters. The BAA requires the Council to transmit the local portion of the D.C. budget, consisting of local taxes and fees, to Congress for a 30-day review period. Upon congressional approval, the local budget would take effect.
Budget autonomy for D.C. has practical benefits for both the District and the federal government. For the District government, it means lower borrowing costs; more accurate revenue and expenditure forecasts; improved agency operations; and the removal of the threat that federal government shutdowns will also shut down the District government. For federal agencies, this means that the D.C. municipal services they rely on to function will not cease during a federal shutdown. It is important to note that under the U.S. Constitution, Congress retains the authority to legislate on any D.C. matter, including its local budget, at any time.
The legislation we voted on today is an unnecessary and undemocratic bill that would deprive D.C. residents of the ability to use local revenues to address the needs specific to their community. It is ironic that Republicans, who claim to favor local control over federal control, have reacted by introducing legislation to overturn the will of local voters.