Rep. Issa Drafts Bill To Give D.C. Budget Autonomy on Issues Other Than Abortion

November 15, 2011 — Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has proposed draft legislation that would give Washington, D.C., the ability to set its own budget but bar the district from using its own money to pay for abortion services for low-income women, Roll Call reports. The bill would allow exceptions in cases of rape, incest or to save a woman's life.

Currently, Congress must approve the district's budget (Dumain, Roll Call, 11/14). Issa, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, proposed allowing the district to begin spending its own funds after the D.C. Council and mayor give their approval, without having to wait for Congress to approve the budget.

Although the abortion-funding ban has widespread support among House Republicans, it is likely to face opposition from House Democrats. Del. Eleanor Norton (D-D.C.), D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and other district officials have been highly critical of a similar provision in a deal President Obama made with congressional Republicans in April to avoid a government shutdown. According to the Washington Post, it is unlikely that Issa would proceed with a bill that does not include the abortion-funding ban.

Gray spokesperson Linda Wharton said the mayor is evaluating the bill and "is aware that the pro-life movement places a lot of pressure on Congressman Issa to continue the prohibition on using local dollars for abortion."

Ili Zherka, head of the advocacy group DC Vote, said that although his group is eager to achieve budget autonomy, "I don't think you can begin this conversation with a bill that permanently restricts how the district can spend its own money" (Pershing, Washington Post, 11/14).

Issa spokesperson Frederick Hill said the bill is a "good-faith effort" to obtain budget autonomy for the district, adding, "Its design reflects a desire to work with district leaders on legislation that can achieve passage in both the House and Senate" (Roll Call, 11/14).