U.S. Senator Rand Paul is being criticized for adding provisions to a bill that would give the District of Columbia more control over its budget.
The D.C. Budget Autonomy Act allows the mayor and city council to pass a spending plan without waiting for approval from Congress. Both Republican and Democratic Senators backed the proposal when it was introduced in April, arguing it would avoid a city government shutdown due to congressional delay.
But Paul introduced several amendments to the bill that would change the city’s gun, abortion and labor laws, and observers argue the legislation will remain in limbo for the rest of the year.
James Jones is a spokesman for D.C. Vote, which seeks full voting representation for residents of the nation's capitol in Congress. He says Paul is overstepping his bounds and betraying his libertarian values.
“Residents of the District are deeply offended by Mr. Paul’s hypocrisy. What seems to be right for the whole rest of the country, which is moving decisions closer to the locality where people seem to know best in the mind of Mr. Paul out on the stump. When it comes to the District of Columbia, he feels he knows best and is using the federal power to come down on us,” he says.
Among Paul's amendments is one that requires the District to allow residents to obtain concealed handgun permits and allows citizens to use permits obtained from other states.
Another would write into law the ban on city-funded abortions, which has been blocked by congressional Republicans in budget proposals for at least a decade. And the last provision would say that membership in a labor union is not a precondition for employment.
The autonomy bill was pulled last week at the request of supporters after negotiations between Democrats and Paul’s office broke down. Political observers have not given the issue much attention, despite the contrast of Paul's libertarian views compared to the lack of voter representation for D.C. residents.
In a telephone interview, Doxie McCoy, a spokeswoman for D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, ripped Kentucky's junior Senator.
“The mayor's response is that we see Senator Paul's proposed amendments as an insult to the people of the District of Columbia,” she says. “D.C. residents on both sides of the aisle are upset that we continue to have interference from members of Congress like Senator Paul, who are not elected by the people of the District of Columbia.”
A recent poll conducted by DC Vote shows that 78 percent of respondents oppose Congress interfering in the city's local affairs. The survey also found that 71 percent believe that only D.C. residents should make the city's budget decisions.
“We find this very absurd considering he’s such a Tea Party hero and a limited government guy,” says Jones. “Rand Paul acting from his high perch in the federal government, he knows what’s best for the District of Columbia and wants to impose what would be considered very radical gun policies on the District of Columbia.”
Paul's office could not comment for this story.
But in an interview with The Washington Post asked Paul about the District’s disenfranchisement. He said: “I don’t know what the answer to that is. It’s an anomaly, but it’s an anomaly that we’ve lived with for a long time and I don’t see it changing.”