Staff Editorial: Congress should leave D.C.’s local budget alone

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The U.S. Capitol building at night. (photo by Prisca Lo Surdo)
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To us, the latest congressional wrangling over the D.C. budget demonstrates once again why the District ought to be a state. Unlike other U.S. citizens, residents here pay federal income taxes yet cannot elect voting members of Congress. Moreover, that same Congress can adopt “riders” in the federal budget — stipulations on how the District government can spend its own local tax dollars.

With statehood not likely any time soon, the best short-term goal is to avoid harmful riders. That’s why we’re pleased with the recently released Senate appropriations bill for D.C., which is generally favorable to the District, according to D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.

This latest bill marks the third straight year that the Senate has avoided D.C.-focused riders, a release from Del. Norton’s office states. It also protects the District government’s ability to spend its own money during federal shutdowns. The House has been more hostile, trying to block the District from taxing marijuana sales, allowing medically assisted suicide, and preventing discrimination on the basis of reproductive health decisions.

Notwithstanding one’s views on any of these specific issues, we’d like to see lawmakers on Capitol Hill show respect for the District’s residents — this year and every year — by leaving local decisions in the hands of their duly elected representatives, as the Senate is doing. We know that Del. Norton will do her utmost to get the House to follow suit, and we wish her the best of luck.