Abortion Amendment Stalls Bill on D.C. Budget Autonomy

June 27, 2012 — A markup on legislation (S 2345) that would grant budget autonomy to the District of Columbia was postponed on Wednesday after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) proposed several amendments, including one to permanently ban the district from using its own funds to pay for abortion services, the Washington Post's "D.C. Wire" reports (Pershing, "D.C. Wire," Washington Post, 6/26).

Sen. Joseph Lieberman's (I-Conn.) autonomy proposal would allow the district to spend its own funds without waiting for congressional approval and let D.C. officials determine when to start the fiscal year, rather than following the federal calendar. The bill, which has the support of Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and local officials, was scheduled for a markup before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday morning.

However, the bill was derailed after Paul proposed his amendments. The abortion funding ban is supported by antiabortion-rights groups and has been included in appropriations bills every year that Republicans have controlled at least one congressional chamber since the mid-1990s ("D.C. Wire," Washington Post, 6/26).

Paul's various amendments -- including ones to roll back district gun laws -- prompted objections from Norton and local activists and officials. They said the proposals infringe on the city's right to govern its own affairs (Dumain, Roll Call, 6/27).

Mary Brooks Beatty (R), a nominee for the D.C. Council, called the proposals an "overreach" with "no place in this bill." She added, "[I]t's a shame that someone elected to represent Kentucky has decided to add language that could deny rights to District residents" (Howell, Washington Times, 6/26).