D.C.

Should D.C.'s budget be pre-approved by Congress?

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WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Ask any D.C. resident whether the city’s budget should be pre-approved by Congress, and you might get an answer like this:

"The time has come for us to stop having to rely on Congress to approve our budget before we can spend our own money," said Atiba Madyun,

Last year, more than eight out of 10 voters approved a referendum to stop it – but Mayor Gray refused to enforce it, the Council filed suit against the Mayor to make him, and on Wednesday, D.C. faced off against D.C. before Judge Emmet Sullivan in Federal Court.

"The government shutdown last fall heightened the importance of budget autonomy," said D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson.

Council Chairman Mendelson echoed the arguments of his attorneys, saying the referendum results were sent to the hill:

"If Congress really didn't like our having budget autonomy, they could have stopped it at any point and they could stop it today."

"A lack of congressional action so far means nothing," said D.C. Attorney General Irv Nathan, who argued the mayor’s side himself in court, saying that it has been the law for 40 years for D.C. government to send budgets to Capitol Hill:

"It's understandable that the Council is frustrated after 40 years of seeking congressional approval, but that doesn't justify taking the law into its own hands."

He noted that the Government Accountability Office and House Republicans both filed briefs, saying D.C. budget autonomy is illegal.

Judge Emmet Sullivan did not say how he would rule, but at the end told the story of a case where he cried for one side and then ruled the other because he said his hands were bound by the law.

Not a good sign for D.C. budget autonomy.

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