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Freedom Caucus Members Roil Colleagues With DC Oversight Proposal

October 4, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – Reps. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and Mark Meadows, R-N.C., have stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy with a proposal that Congress tighten its oversight of the District of Columbia.

H.R. 4445, the District of Columbia Home Rule Improvement Act, would double the congressional review period for legislation passed by the D.C. Council from 30 days to 60 days, expand the expedited parliamentary procedures for disapproving D.C. legislation, and clarify that Congress can disapprove of individual provisions of D.C. legislation. 

On Friday, James McGovern, D-Mass., chairman of the House Rules Committee, one of two committees to which the bill has been referred, condemned the legislation, declaring it both an attack on the District and dead on arrival.

“It is ironic that members of the Freedom Caucus have introduced legislation to give the federal government increased ability to meddle in the local affairs of the D.C. government,” McGovern said. “The federal government has no business overriding the will of local residents. Small government conservatives should be outraged by H.R. 4445, but instead they are leading the charge to try and get it passed.”

The introduction of the legislation comes as the House is preparing to consider H.R. 51, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act — legislation that would admit the State of Washington, D.C. into the Union.

McGovern said Friday the House needs “to pass the Washington, D.C. Admission Act and finally make the District a state – not try to restrict the District from governing itself.”

But a spokesman for Representative Meadows told The Well News Friday afternoon, “Our response is that Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress authority and oversight over the capital — or Washington, D.C.”

Representative Gosar’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Under the Home Rule Act of 1973, most D.C. legislation takes effect after a 30-day congressional review period, unless during that period a resolution of disapproval is enacted into law. 

District bills affecting certain criminal law titles of the D.C. Code are already subject to a 60-day review period, and during the congressional review period, Members of Congress can use fast-track procedures to bring a disapproval resolution to the floor. 

Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., scoffed at the bill, saying Congressional Republicans made the review period for D.C. legislation an anachronism a long time ago.

Republicans typically prefer to use the appropriations process to try to meddle in local D.C. affairs and repeal D.C. legislation, she said in a lengthy release put out by her office. 

“Voted into the minority in the House, Gosar and Meadows must have a lot of time on their hands,” Norton said.  “When I was in the minority, though, I consistently got bills passed that helped my constituents, and their constituents expect them to do the same. 

“As the House proceeds with the markup of H.R. 51, these two Members are stuck in the anti-home-rule era, which passed into the night even before passage of H.R. 51.  Members of Congress sponsoring legislation that deprecates American citizens are unworthy of their office. I will stop this latest gratuitous bill in its tracks,” she said.

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