Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton today alerted residents that the odds of a District of Columbia government shutdown have increased in the last 24 hours because of yet another federal spending fight having nothing to do with the District.
Only five months after the District of Columbia government barely avoided a shutdown in fiscal year 2011 because of the federal spending fight, it is in danger again because Congress has yet to pass any of the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bills. The federal fiscal year ends September 30, and while the House and Senate have been working on a continuing resolution to keep the government running in fiscal year 2012 they seem to have reached an impasse.
In a year that Americans repeatedly suffered tornadoes, flooding and wildfires, of all things they might possibly find to disagree about, they are stalled on talks about federal disaster aid funding.
“We still have more than a week before midnight September 30,” said Norton, D-District of Columbia. “It would be an incredible folly of Republicans to court another shutdown out of a stingy, stubborn refusal to assist thousands of Americans caught in the multiple disasters that hurled across our country in 2011. But after the hairbreadth by which the District missed a shutdown in April, we cannot afford to put the city through the expense and effort of preparing for a possible shutdown again. We have no choice but to prepare.”
The District must prepare because if the federal government shuts down October 1, the District government would shut down, too, because it cannot spend its own local funds without an Act of Congress. To safeguard and protect her district, Norton introduced the District of Columbia Fiscal Year 2012 Local Funds Continuation Act, which would permit the District government to remain open in the event of a federal government shutdown and spend its local funds for the rest of fiscal year 2012. Norton introduced a similar bill in fiscal year 2011.
Further, Norton is concerned that even if the continuing resolution passes, the District government faces another shutdown threat when the resolution (and thus D.C.’s authority to spend its local funds) expires on November 18.
Last week, Representative Alcee Hastings, D-Florida, offered, at Norton’s request, an amendment during a House Rules Committee meeting to allow the District to spend its own local funds for all of fiscal year 2012. Although Republicans defeated the amendment on a party-line vote, Norton has been in touch with the Senate Democratic leadership, asking that the Senate amend the House continuing resolution to give D.C. the authority to spend its local funds for all of fiscal year 2012, which President Barack Obama included in his fiscal year 2012 continuing-resolution request.