Washington’s Budget Battle Makes D.C. Ground Zero for Shutdown
Washington D.C. may be ground zero in Congress’s war over the federal budget.
An impasse among lawmakers over how deeply to trim spending threatens to cut off funds for U.S. government operations by this weekend. For the nation’s capital, whose budget is part of the appropriations bill at the center of the wrangle, that means about 14,000 city workers will be furloughed, libraries will close, road repairs will cease and trash won’t be picked up until a week after the shutdown ends, said Mayor Vincent Gray.
“That’ll be a treat, won’t it?” Gray said at a news conference yesterday.
Congressional Democrats and Republicans are seeking a compromise on this year’s budget before the current spending authority expires tomorrow. If they fail, federal agencies will close for the first time in 15 years.
While Washington collects its own taxes and local officials oversee spending, the city’s more-than-$5 billion budget must be approved by Congress and the president. The process is a relic of the days before 1973, when the federal district first got the power to elect a municipal government.
“This is a concrete example of what it means to be treated as a second-class citizen,” Gray said.
In the event of a shutdown, Washington’s schools would remain open, and police and firefighters would stay on duty, Gray said.
If federal museums such as the Smithsonian Institution close, fewer tourists would visit, shrinking tax collections more than $1 million a week, Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi estimated.
“The impact on the larger economy is difficult to say,” he said.
Lack of local power has long been a sticking point for residents of Washington, founded in 1791. They live not in a state but in the District of Columbia, carved out between Virginia and Maryland to provide neutral ground for the seat of national government.
It wasn’t until 1961 that Washingtonians were allowed to vote in presidential elections. They still don’t have U.S. senators; Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s delegate in the national Capitol, doesn’t have full voting power.
To contact the reporters on this story: William Selway in Washington at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bloomberg moderates all comments. Comments that are abusive or off-topic will not be posted to the site. Excessively long comments may be moderated as well. Bloomberg cannot facilitate requests to remove comments or explain individual moderation decisions.