In the News 2013

House Spending Bill Includes Abortion, Needle-Exchange Social Riders D.C. Hates

In keeping with tradition, the House Appropriations Committee released a spending bill today that would continue to deny D.C. the right to use local taxpayer funds to provide abortions for low-income women.

The 2014 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill prohibits federal and local funds from being used for abortion, and federal funds from being used for the city’s needle-exchange and medical marijuana programs.

The bill calls for D.C. to receive $636 million in federal money—that’s $40 million less than last year—with $54 million earmarked for the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act, which provides money for low-income students to use at private schools.

In a statement, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) says she “remains resolute” to get the abortion rider removed from the appropriations bill “once and for all.” Norton said she will work with the Senate and a national coalition to get a cleaner bill passed.

Indeed, anticipating that the social-policy riders would once again appear, the coalition of 52 groups sent a letter to Congress last week expressing concern that the appropriations bill would “unjustly interfere in the District of Columbia’s local affairs by imposing social-policy riders that usurp the prerogative of the District of Columbia’s elected mayor and council and the citizens they represent.”

“Congress does not impose its views on any other local jurisdiction,” the letter continues. “We expect Congress to be consistent by letting District residents manage their own affairs without interference or meddling.”

Members of the coalition include Catholics for Choice, DC Vote and Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington.

Norton’s statement also targets the proposed 50-percent reduction to funding for the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grant Program, which she says “simply cannot and will not stand.”

Norton says she believes the Senate will restore DCTAG’s funding, as President Obama set aside $35 million for the program in his budget. “In the best case scenario, the Senate will fully fund the president’s $35 million request for DCTAG, or, in the most likely scenario, a continuing resolution will maintain the $30 million fiscal year 2013 enacted funding level,” she says in the statement.

Norton is also concern about the lack of funding for D.C. Water and Sewer Authority and the reduced funding for testing and treatment for HIV/AIDS in D.C. The appropriations bill heads to a subcommittee tomorrow to be marked up. As The Washington Post reports, it’s unclear how far this bill will actually get: “In recent years the bill has frequently been wrapped into an end-of-year omnibus bill or continuing resolution.”

This piece was originally published by DCist.

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