GOP Congressman Tries To Ban D.C. From Spending Its Own Money On Abortion

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA)

Washington, D.C. is the only city in the country that has its budget controlled by Congress. Instead of local leaders deciding how to use taxpayer funds, D.C. residents have to put up with the injustice of watching their public services become a political bargaining chip for national politicians.

Now House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is once again trying to advance a conservative social agenda through D.C.’s budget — ironically under the guise of giving the District more autonomy:

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has drafted a bill that would give the District more freedom to spend its own money — with a catch.

The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has included in his measure a provision that would prohibit the District from spending its own taxpayer funds to pay for abortions for low-income women except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

…[T]he inclusion of the abortion language could doom the bill from the start. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and other officials were furious when President Obama and congressional Republicans cut a deal on a spending bill in April that included a similar temporary prohibition. […]

Issa’s “carrot” is actually a coercive proposition: give us what we want now or we’ll hold you hostage again in the future. Right now, D.C. often has to wait for months for budget approval while Congress entangles its finances with “unrelated squabbles over the federal budget and government shutdown threats.” To avoid a government shutdown this past spring, Republicans dropped their demand to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood in exchange for a rider banning D.C. from spending its own locally-raised dollars to subsidize abortion for poor women.

Democrats essentially sacrificed the District’s rights to avoid other cuts — which is easily done because D.C. is disenfranchised with no formal voice or votes in congressional negotiations. Obama reportedly told House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) during the deal, “John, I will give you D.C. abortion.” Outraged, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and several members of the City Council were arrested at a protest shortly after that spending bill was approved.

Issa’s bill would allow D.C.’s leaders to escape the tedious congressional budget approval process — but only if they surrender more of their control first, and give up what Republicans would try to get from the process anyway. It’s an unpromising way to begin a new era of D.C. autonomy — by giving much of it away.