Jan 9, 2023 - News

D.C. home rule imperiled by Kevin McCarthy fallout

Rep.-elect Matt Gaetz talks to lawmakers inside the House chamber

We couldn't take our eyes off the House floor last week. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The fallout from the Kevin McCarthy drama on the Hill could embolden conservatives who want to meddle in D.C. laws.

Why it matters: The District is beholden to the whims of Congress. One concession that McCarthy reportedly made to arch-conservatives in the GOP would make it easier for far-right lawmakers to slip anti-D.C. provisions into federal budgets.

What happened: Two antagonists of hometown Washington — Andrew Clyde and Andy Harris — are part of the conservative House Freedom Caucus that humiliated McCarthy by dragging out his nomination for speaker.

  • Clyde is a representative from Georgia who’d like to completely repeal D.C.’s home rule. Harris, who represents Maryland, famously blocked the city in 2015 from legalizing marijuana sales.
  • In return for their votes for his speakership, McCarthy would allow the House to attach unlimited amendments to government funding bills and have open-ended debate on the legislation, the Washington Post reported. Amendments can include what are known as "riders" that restrict D.C. laws.

That means a GOP lawmaker could attach an anti-D.C. rider to the federal budget bill and hamstring its passage because it’d be a poison pill for the left.

  • In one worst-case scenario for liberal D.C., Democrats might have to weigh shutting down the government over Republicans trying to roll back abortion access in the city.

Context: Past GOP riders have included one that blocked D.C. from spending local tax dollars on abortions, besides the Harris amendment that has prevented weed sales in the city.

What they’re saying: “I’m very worried,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton tells Axios. “I’d have to depend on the president and the Senate to somehow bargain for us.”

Between the lines: A Democratic president and Senate wouldn’t necessarily stop the riders. Infamously, President Obama in 2011 begrudgingly traded away D.C. abortion funding to congressional Republicans to prevent a government shutdown.

Spokespeople for Clyde and Harris did not respond to requests for comment about how they might wield the House’s new power.

What's next: The House is scheduled to vote Monday on its rules.

Go deeper ... Some Republicans expect a rocky road for McCarthy's speakership.


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