Mr. SIMPSON. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on the further consideration of H.R. 5055, and that I may include tabular material on the same.
Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I am happy to speak of my friendship with the chairman of our full committee, and I thank him for his kind words. I only hope he will come to where the two past immediate Republican chairs of the committee--former-Chairman Davis and former-Chairman Darrell Issa--have come and, that is, to support budget autonomy for the District of Columbia.
I rise in strong opposition to this bill. This bill, that would repeal a law approved by 83 percent of the District of Columbia voters, would nullify a court ruling and would permanently take away the authority of the 700,000 D.C. citizens and their elected officials to spend their local funds without congressional approval.
This bill manages to be unprincipled and impractical at the same time. It is profoundly undemocratic for any Member of Congress in the 21st century to declare that he has authority over any other jurisdiction except his own. It also would harm the finances and operations of the District of Columbia.
As a matter of fact, the District of Columbia Budget Autonomy Act is already in effect. The District Council has begun the process of passing its first local budget without the assistance of Federal overseers. Therefore, this bill would be the most significant reduction in the District's authority to govern itself since Congress granted the District limited home rule in 1973.
Now, as a lawyer myself, I am the first to concede that lawyers differ about the validity of the Budget Autonomy Act, even when the District was in the process of enacting it.
What is indisputable, though, Mr. Speaker, is that the Budget Autonomy Act is now law; the Budget Autonomy Act has been litigated; and there is only one judicial opinion in effect.
In March, the D.C. Superior Court upheld the Budget Autonomy Act. Do you believe in the rule of law? It upheld the Budget Autonomy Act. No appeal was filed, and the court ordered D.C. officials to implement it.
The Superior Court of the District of Columbia then evaluated each and every legal and constitutional argument you will hear brought forward today about whether the Budget Autonomy Act violates the U.S. Constitution, the District of Columbia Home Rule Act, the Federal Antideficiency Act, and the Federal Budget and Accounting Act. All of that, every last one of it, every last provision has been litigated.
The House leadership made the very same arguments in an amicus brief they filed. There are a whole gang of Members anxious to see that this one jurisdiction can't handle its own money. The court, nevertheless, found--indeed, disposed of--all of these arguments.
Specifically, the court upheld the Budget Autonomy Act and held that the Home Rule Act preserved the then-existing 1973 budget process, but did not--and this is essential here--did not prohibit the District from changing the local process in the future. The charter does not. The charter is like the Constitution. Congress knew how to say: Don't change budget matters discussed in this document. It did not do so. So it had to be interpreted, and it was interpreted by the District.
The Senate of the United States, at the time of the Home Rule Act, passed budget autonomy for the District of Columbia. So you can cite the Diggs Compromise all you want to. The compromise was that budget control now is in the hands of the Congress. But you will note they have left room in the charter for budget control to come from the District. That was the compromise.
There was no compromise that said that the District can never have any jurisdiction, any final say, over its local budget.
This is, after all, the country that went to war over taxation without representation. Imagine saying: you folks, you can raise all the money you want to; but it doesn't mean anything unless the Congress of the United States passes your budget.
The District followed the charter procedure that was in the Diggs budget [Page: H3210]
to pass the Budget Autonomy Act. And as the court noted, Congress had the authority to pass a disapproval resolution while the referendum was in the Congress for 30 days but this Congress did not disapprove it.
The Federal courts also have evaluated the validity of the Budget Autonomy Act. A Federal district court, indeed, did find the act to be invalid.
But then look at what the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia did. After receiving briefs, reading them hopefully and hearing oral argument, the higher court, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, vacated the district court decision altogether, meaning that that initial decision against the Budget Autonomy Act had no force or effect.
Instead of issuing a decision on the merits or sending the case back to the lower Federal court, the Federal appeals court, without explanation, simply remanded the case to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, which then issued the only existing court ruling on the validity of the D.C. Budget Autonomy Act.
Is there a rational reason for opposition to budget autonomy?
After all, budget autonomy is not statehood, it is not independence, it doesn't take away any of your much-vaunted power. The D.C. budget autonomy act has no effect, indeed, on congressional authority over the District.
Under the Budget Autonomy Act, the D.C. Council must transmit the local D.C. budget to Congress for a review period before that budget would take effect, like all other D.C. legislation under the Home Rule Act, and that is about to happen, as I speak. During the review period Congress can use expedited procedures to disapprove the budget.
You see, what the District was doing here was not committing revolution. It was using the procedures in place in order to gain greater control over its own local budget. In addition, under the U.S. Constitution, Congress has total legislative authority over the District. Congress can legislate on any District matter at any time, but Congress can also delegate any or all of its legislative authority over the District, and it can take back any delegated authority at any time.
In 1973, under the Home Rule Act, Congress did just that. It delegated most of its authority, its legislative authority over the District to an elected local government. Congress can delegate more or it can delegate less authority than provided in the Home Rule Act. It can repeal the Home Rule Act at any time. It can even abolish the government of the District of Columbia.
My friends, I ask you: Is that enough authority for you? Over 700,000 American citizens who are not your constituents, is that enough for you? Is that enough power? Why is that not enough to satisfy any Congress of the United States?
Until this Congress, Democrats were not alone in supporting budget autonomy. President George W. Bush supported D.C. budget autonomy. The Republican-controlled Senate passed a budget autonomy bill by unanimous consent in 2003. The last two Republican chairmen, of whom I spoke today as I began to speak myself, who had the jurisdiction that Chairman Chaffetz now has--Tom Davis and Darrell Issa--actually fought for, not simply supported, but fought for budget autonomy. I think
they recognized that this is a set of principles we have in common.
I always thought that local control was a cardinal principle of the Republican Party. Even the Republicans' own witnesses at the hearing on this bill who took a position on the policy of budget autonomy--and that was most of them--supported budget action.
Control over the dollars raised by local taxpayers is a much-cited principle of congressional Republicans, and it happens to be central to our form of government as held by Democrats and Republicans. The exalted status of local control for Republicans, though, keeps being announced as if we need to be retaught.
The Republicans did so again in their recently released budget. I quote you only one sentence: ``We are humble enough,'' Republicans said, ``to admit that the Federal Government does not have all the answers.'' That was their latest abeyance to local control for every single American jurisdiction, except the American jurisdiction that happens to be the capital of the United States.
Beyond this core principle, budget autonomy has practical benefits that I don't see how any Member of Congress can ignore. In a recent amicus brief filed by former Congressman Davis: ``The benefits of budget autonomy for the District are numerous, real, and much needed. There is no drawback.''
One of the other signatories of the brief was Alice Rivlin, a former Director of the Congressional Budget Office, also a former Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
It is with some irony and real pain that I see come to this floor even to speak against this bill Members whose budgets are not as large as the budget of the District of Columbia, even though they come from entire, big States. The District's budget is bigger than the budgets of 14 States. We raise that money ourselves. The District raises more than $7 billion in local funds. The District contributes more Federal taxes to the Treasury of the United States than 22 States. The District of Columbia
is number one in federal taxes per capita paid to the Federal Government, and the District is in better financial shape than most cities and States in the United States, with a rainy day fund of $2.17 billion on a total budget of $13.4 billion. Budget autonomy will make the District--which, after all, has no State to fall back on--even stronger.
Budget autonomy gives the District what every other local government in the United States enjoys: lower borrowing costs on Wall Street. Imagine having to do what the District has to do: pay a penalty because your budget has to come to a Congress that knows nothing of your city or your budget, and they get to vote on it even though your own Member does not. D.C. will also have improved agency operations, and in D.C.'s case, the removal of the threat of Federal Government shutdowns, shutting down
the entire D.C. government just because Members of Congress can't figure out what to do about the Federal Government. The Federal Government has benefits, too. Congress would no longer waste time on a budget it never amends.
So budget autonomy has no downside. I am trying to figure out why anybody would want to deal with my budget. Heavens.
Don't Members have enough to do?
Congress maintains total legislative control over the District, with all the Federal financial controls in place. Congress has nothing to lose, can step in at anytime they don't like it. We are not asking for very much. It is for some loosening of Congressional control. So, for example, we would not have to pay more when we borrow on Wall Street because we are seen as involved in a two-step budgetary process; one, I might add, that is far more problematic, the Federal process, than the other,
the local process. It also is ironic to note that Congress granted D.C. budget autonomy during its early years.
Yesterday the Committee on Rules prevented my amendment to make the text of the Budget Autonomy Act Federal law from getting a vote. Today the appropriations subcommittee passed an appropriation rider containing the text of the very bill that is before us on this floor right now. That makes 2 days, 2 identical provisions. Just in case--just in case anybody would think that Republicans don't mean it, they are doing it twice.
What do they need? An insurance policy of identical language in case, God forbid, the Senate does not pass this bill?
I predict that the Senate won't pass this bill. So it is on you, Members of the House of Representatives, the people's House, to take the lead in denying for the people who live in your Nation's Capital the same control over their local budget that you, yourselves, hold so dear. You can stand on what you do today, but you won't stand up straight because what you do today, if you vote to take away our budget autonomy bill, will not be standing on principle.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. MEADOWS. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the gentleman from Utah, Chairman Chaffetz, for his strong statement in support of H.R. 5233, the Clarifying Congressional Intent in Providing for DC Home Rule Act of 2016.
As we begin debate on this important bill, I would like to first take the opportunity to reiterate that I firmly believe that the Local Budget Autonomy Act is, indeed, unlawful and null and void. The Home Rule Act clearly provides that the District's budget shall pass through the Federal appropriations process, preserving Congress' role in the passage of that budget.
However, because of the precedent that allowing the District to usurp the congressional authority may set, and the potential negative consequences that the District government employees may face for enforcing the Local Budget Autonomy Act, I have introduced H.R. 5233.
I would further say that my good friend, the Delegate from the District of Columbia, Ms. Eleanor Holmes Norton, indeed is a friend, and I appreciate her passionate way that she always represents her constituency. While we disagree on the debate and the merits of that debate, I can't help but acknowledge my friendship with her and, truly, her passion for the people who she serves.
H.R. 5233 will repeal the Local Budget Autonomy Act and reinforce Congress' intended role in the budgetary process. As many of you know, Congress was granted that exclusive legislative authority over the District in Article 1, section 8, clause 17. This exclusive authority was explained further in the Federalist 43 as being a crucial component in keeping the Federal Government free from potential influence by any State housing the government's seat.
There was a distinct worry that placing the seat of the Federal Government in a territory where Congress was not the sole sovereign would, indeed, impact its integrity. Therefore, the Founding Fathers saw fit to authorize Congress to create the District and act as the sole legislative authority for the District.
As seen in Federalist 43, the Founding Fathers believed that Congress would delegate some of those exclusive authorities to the District, specifically the power to deal with solely local matters. In 1973, Congress made a decision to enact such legislation when they passed the Home Rule Act.
In that act, Congress provided the District with the authority to have the jurisdiction over legislative matters on a limited basis. But--and this is a critically important point--Congress reserved for itself, and prohibited the District from altering, the role of Congress in the budgetary process.
There can be little doubt that Congress intended to reserve that power for itself. The language of the Home Rule Act itself is clear. Both the former and the current attorney general for the District, as well as the former Mayor, believe the Local Budget Autonomy Act to be unlawful and contrary to the Home Rule Act.
Mr. Irvin Nathan, the former attorney general, testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that numerous sections of the Home Rule Act prohibit the District's action.
Mr. Nathan, who supports the policy, as my good friend acknowledged, who actually supports the policy of budget autonomy, even stated that he believed the Federal District Court's opinion invalidating the Local Budget Autonomy Act was, indeed, a correct opinion.
Beyond the clear language, the legislative history makes it clear, Mr. Speaker, that Congress had no intent to delegate to the District the authority for the budgetary process. In fact, Mr. Jacques DePuy, who participated in the drafting of the Home Rule Act itself, made it clear in testimony before Congress that, indeed, Congress did not intend to delegate the appropriations powers to the District. The legislative record of the Home Rule Act supports Mr. DePuy.
One such piece of the record is, indeed, the Diggs letter, which the chairman referenced earlier, that was issued by Chairman Charles Diggs. The letter describes how it was clarifying the intent of Congress by making several changes, including reserving Congress' role in the budgetary process.
The Diggs letter highlighted a pivotal aspect of the congressional intent in the Home Rule Act. It represents a compromise in response to the Senate's Home Rule Act, which actually included a form of budget autonomy.
The compromise does not indicate that Congress intended to grant the District budget autonomy. To the contrary, what the Diggs compromise represents is that there could be no Home Rule Act, absent an express reservation of the role of Congress in the District's budget process.
I believe there can be no stronger statement that Congress intended to reserve its appropriation role than the fact that the Home Rule Act would have failed, absent that reservation.
Importantly, both of these men, Mr. Irvin and Mr. DePuy, who support budget autonomy further believe that the District's action is illegal and, therefore, null and void.
I want to be clear on this. We are not here today to make a power grab against the District, as some would suggest. We are here, Mr. Speaker, to uphold the rule of law.
At the committee's hearing, even the chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia was forced to acknowledge that it was clear that the majority of the Members of Congress who passed the Home Rule Act intended to reserve the complete appropriations for Congress. Again, another individual who supports budget autonomy recognizes the intent of Congress.
So, in moving ahead with the Local Budget Autonomy Act, the District government is usurping congressional authority, and inaction would undermine not only this institution, but all organs of government across this Nation.
To suggest that any city council's action, whether it be here in the District or in any other city in the country, could unilaterally overturn the intent of Congress would set a bad precedent. Regardless of the precedent, however, such action by local government is a blatant violation of the Supremacy Clause and, therefore, unconstitutional.
Moreover, as a result of the unlawful way in which the budget autonomy is purported to have been achieved, District government employees are now at risk of the Antideficiency Act and the sanctions therein.
Under the Antideficiency Act, absent a congressional appropriation, the District may not expend or obligate funds. Doing so will result in potential criminal or administrative penalties for not only the District's elected officials, but the line level employees charged with purchasing items for the District.
The GAO testified that they maintain that the Local Budget Autonomy Act violates the Home Rule Act and the Antideficiency Act, despite the superior court's decision. H.R. 5233 would repeal the Local Budget Autonomy Act and prevent the District government employees from having to worry that the purchases they make on behalf of the District may indeed violate the law.
H.R. 5233 will also augment the already clear prohibitions on the District in altering the role of Congress in the budget process, ensuring that Congress' intent and constitutional authority, Mr. Speaker, remains in place.
Ms. PLASKETT. Now, I fear, when we leave the well-being of the District of Columbia to this body, this body seems to lack the will or fortitude to make equitable decisions for everyday people of this country or, more particularly, the historically disenfranchised people.
This Congress seems intent on stripping away what little power those who don't have a vote on this floor have been able to wring from the hands of the majority.
It is my belief that Congress should stop wasting its time debating legislation that continues to subjugate the District of Columbia to its authority and work on passing a Federal budget that would boost the economy of the entire American people.
Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Before I recognize the ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, I cannot help but note, when I listen to my friend, Ms. Plaskett, speak up for the District of Columbia, she, who comes from what is known as a territory, the Virgin Islands--isn't it interesting--and I know she must understand it--that the Virgin Islands does not have to submit a budget to the Congress of the United States. I never have had to debate the gentlewoman's budget here. I have never
had to debate the gentlewoman's legislation here.
There is a unique denial here in the District of Columbia. That is one reason it is so roundly resented.
Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cummings), my good friend, the ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Just as lawyers have disagreed about whether or not the District could proceed with budget autonomy, lawyers have disagreed from the beginning of our Nation on what the Constitution says.
I would take at his word what James Madison said in speaking of the District of Columbia: ``A municipal legislature for local purposes, derived from their own suffrages, will of course be allowed to them.''
That is what, according to Madison, the Constitution said.
Now, my friends have cited all manner of lawyers and their own views on whether this matter is legal or constitutional. They have even cited the interpretation of staff who helped draft the Home Rule Act.
Well, we stand this afternoon on the only authoritative opinion, the opinion of the Superior Court and its court order. And I leave with you that order.
Ordered that all members of the Council of the District of Columbia, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, Chief Financial Officer, Jeffrey S. DeWitt, their successors in office, and all officers, agents, servants, employees, and all persons in active concert or participation with the Government of the District of Columbia shall forthwith enforce all provisions of the Local Budget Autonomy Act of 2012.
That is the law. Respect the rule of law.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. CHAFFETZ. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I stand in support of H.R. 5233. I am proud of the fact that, in the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, we had a hearing, we had a proper markup, and we are bringing it here to the floor today for all Members to vote on.
I would urge my colleagues to adhere to the Constitution. Do what the Constitution says and support the bill, H.R. 5233.
I want to thank again Mr. Meadows for his work and leadership on this and getting us to this point. I urge its passage.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. CHAFFETZ. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to House Resolution 744, I call up the bill (H.R. 5233) to repeal the Local Budget Autonomy Amendment Act of 2012, to amend the District of Columbia Home Rule Act to clarify the respective roles of the District government and Congress in the local budget process of the District government, and for other purposes, and ask for its immediate consideration in the House.
The Clerk will report the title of the bill.