Last night, a bill to grant Washington, DC, budget autonomy had to be pulled from the schedule after Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) tacked on restrictions that supported his Republican agenda.
According to The Hill, Paul said of the amendments, “I think it’s a good way to call attention to some issues that have national implications… We don’t have [control] over the states but we do for D.C.”
Of course, Paul and his colleagues do not actually represent the District of Columbia — Paul represents Kentucky, 500 miles away from DC — and it should not technically be their legislative playground. But Paul is just the last of the long line of members of Congress who mistakenly believe it is their place to tell Washington residents what they can and cannot do.
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Here are the top five ways that Republicans have recently tried to legislate the District they don’t represent:
1) DC WOMEN SHOULDN’T ACCESS ABORTIONS. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) proposed a 20-week abortion ban for the District recently, and was greeted by outrage from residents who haven’t seen Congress offer its assistance on any issues with which they actually would like government assistance — including DC’s cockroach and pothole problems. Franks wouldn’t even let DC’s delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) speak at the hearing on the bill. Following on Franks’ heels was Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) who is proposing the “District of Columbia Respect for Life and Conscience Act of 2012.” One of the amendments Paul proposed last night also sought to codify into law a previous ban by Congress on using public funding in DC for abortions.
2) DC SHOULD SPEND LESS ON TRANSPORTATION. Republican Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) proposed slashing $150 million for DC public transport, and “called those funds an earmark for the Washington DC area.” To the many DC residents who take DC buses or metro every day, this is not so much an earmark as the only way of getting to work. Luckily for Garrett’s staffers who live or commute in Washington, his proposal was rejected.
3) DC SHOULD HAVE MORE GUNS. One of Paul’s proposed amendments last night was to try to allow DC residents to carry concealed weapons, and another to make it so that there would be more firearms dealers in the city. It’s understandable that Paul wouldn’t understand the risks of more guns in DC; Washington has about 13.3 violent crimes per 1,000 residents. Kentucky, Paul’s home state, on the other hand, has 2.4
4) DC WORKERS SHOULDN’T UNIONIZE. Another amendment by Paul dictated that “membership in a labor organization may not be applied as a precondition for employment” in Washington, DC. This is an obvious anti-union move by a far-right Republican. But in this case, the rule applies as a precondition to any money that DC gets in what is supposed to be its autonomous budget.
5) DC TAXPAYERS SHOULD FUND PRIVATE SCHOOLS. Teachers, the mayor, and Holmes Norton all begged Congress not to pass a school voucher program for the Disctrict, but Congressional legislators did anyway. This forces taxpayers to spend money on DC’s private schools, instead of helping to fund the struggling public school system in the District.
And here is a bonus: DC can’t even have statues. Every state in the U.S. has two statues on display in the halls of Congress. Washington, of course, has long been denied that honor. A recent vote has moved the District closer to getting their two statues — Fredrick Douglas and Pierre L’Enfant — into Congress’s statuary hall. But, for now, the statues “have been somewhat anonymously relegated to the lobby of the District’s Judiciary Square building.”
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), who is a non-voting member of Congress representing the District of Columbia, has been endlessly vocal about the injustice of other members trying to legislate over her district. But it has been to no avail.