House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office (R-Va.) indicated Thursday the GOP leader supports the District of Columbia having budget autonomy.
A Cantor spokeswoman told The Washington Post he is “certainly willing to work with the District toward its goal of budget autonomy.”
The second-ranking House Republican also “remains hopeful that there will be more flexibility by the District to find a path forward on this issue,” his spokeswoman told the paper in an email.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) praised the news.
“I appreciate the support of Majority Leader Cantor,” she wrote in a statement Friday, noting it’s the first time that a member of the House Republican leadership has publicly indicated support for the district’s budget autonomy.
“His support adds to the momentum and our hopes for budget autonomy this year,” she added.
The move from Cantor’s office come just weeks after Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-Va.) came out in support of the matter.
In early February, McDonnell sent a letter to both Cantor and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, urging them to provide the district budget autonomy, as it’s “what the governors of every state enjoy.”
McDonnell highlighted the close ties between district funds and Virginia, noting that if a shutdown were to occur in relation to the district’s budget, vital services including Metro operations would cease.
“That, in turn, has a direct impact on the over 100,000 Virginians who commute to their jobs in the district,” McDonnell wrote.
Congress has oversight of the district’s budget. That authority became a cause for concern in the past year because a federal government shutdown would, in turn, impact some D.C. services.
Issa has been a strong advocate of the district’s budget autonomy for months.
Late last year, Issa put forth a bill that would have allowed the district to spend its own money as soon as the D.C. Council and mayor approved a budget. Attached to the bill, however, was a prohibition on the district funding abortions except in cases of incest or rape. City leaders quickly rejected the proposal.
In January, Norton expressed mixed feelings about Issa’s support for district budget autonomy.
“It was surprising to see him introduce a bill that had a lot of good things in it,” she said, but added that it was “disappointing” to see him tack on the abortion rider.
But “the fact that he [introduced the legislation] is certainly good news,” she added. “Generally, his heart has been in the right place.”
District rights advocates have also racked up another unexpected ally of late in the quest for budget autonomy: President Obama. His public support this year represents a sharp turnaround from last spring when he offered to cede district voting rights to the GOP during budget talks to avoid a government shutdown.
“The people of D.C. deserve to have control over their own local affairs,” a White House official wrote in an email to The Hill in January. “The president continues to be an unequivocal supporter of voting rights, home rule and budget autonomy for the District of Columbia.”
On Friday, Norton highlighted the expanding support for the district’s efforts toward greater autonomy.
“The President, the House Majority Leader, the chairman of the committee of jurisdiction and our neighboring Republican governor, in short order, have all publicly expressed their support for D.C. budget autonomy,” she wrote.
“I look forward to working with Majority Leader Cantor and the other House leaders to secure the District’s right to enact and enforce its own budget, like every other jurisdiction in the country,” Norton concluded.