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.