The Dis­trict de­serves fed­eral over­sight

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS ● Deb­o­rah Sim­mons can be con­tacted at dsim­mons@wash­ing­tontimes.com.

The U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion, the doc­u­ment that pre­ceded the fa­mous in­scrip­tion that men­tions tired, poor and hun­gry pop­u­la­tions, gives con­trol to Congress of what we now call Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

That sim­ple fact means that ev­ery year elected Dis­trict of­fi­cials de­vise a bud­get, as states do, to de­ter­mine a spend­ing plan, along with req­ui­site laws.

The Dis­trict also has to do some­thing the states do not, how­ever. The city must send its proposed bud­get to Congress for fed­eral ap­proval, where ev­ery se­na­tor and vot­ing mem­ber of the House can have a say re­gard­ing their na­tion’s cap­i­tal.

Bi­par­ti­san snip­ing and com­pro­mises are ex­pected ev­ery year. Repub­li­cans and con­ser­va­tives make known their po­si­tions on cer­tain issues, such as abor­tion, law en­force­ment and ed­u­ca­tion; and lib­er­als and Democrats push back.

It’s like a scene from a Tom and Jerry short, ex­cept rarely does the fall­ing anvil mor­tally wound Dis­trict Democrats.

The fun and games be­gin in win­ter, when the pres­i­dent de­liv­ers his fis­cal bud­get and ends near sum­mer, af­ter the Dis­trict bud­get makes the rounds.

This year might fol­low a slightly dif­fer­ent time­line if Repub­li­cans carry out their con­sti­tu­tional du­ties, and if Repub­li­cans don’t be­come en­rap­tured with los­ing the Dis­trict Se­nate and House seats.

I’m jok­ing of course. The Dis­trict has no sen­a­tors, and the Dis­trict has no vot­ing House mem­ber. Like Puerto Rico and the other ter­ri­to­ries, the Dis­trict has a non­vot­ing del­e­gate, and her name is Eleanor Holmes Nor­ton, and she’s up for re-elec­tion, and she’s go­ing to win.

Mrs. Nor­ton, a Demo­crat, is go­ing to win be­cause no for­mi­da­ble can­di­date dares run against her. She is, af­ter all, an O.G., and Democrats and Repub­li­cans alike re­spect as much.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Congress, or the White House for that mat­ter, should ig­nore how the city mis­spends fed­eral funds.

For ex­am­ple, Mayor Muriel Bowser and mem­bers of the D.C. Coun­cil are fond of re­fer­ring to the Dis­trict as a sanc­tu­ary city, in­creas­ing ed­u­ca­tion spend­ing and urg­ing Congress to leave its gun laws alone. Which would be well and good if no fed­eral dol­lars were in­volved.

But the fed­eral gov­ern­ment should get to the bot­tom of this prob­lem: The city al­lows stu­dents who do not live in the Dis­trict to at­tend D.C. pub­lic schools for free — and that ob­vi­ously opens the door to the pos­si­bil­ity that fed­eral funds are sent to stu­dents’ home states.

Last year brought the grade-fix­ing scan­dal.

It’s time for Congress and the White House to step up their over­sight of the na­tion’s cap­i­tal. For sure, the city can “in­vest” its lo­cal dol­lars in prac­ti­cally what­ever it chooses.

But fed­eral money? No. D.C. res­i­dents are tired and hunger for tougher fed­eral over­sight, and poor chil­dren de­serve it.

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